ARVADA, Colo. — Chef John Hinman will tell you pie was the special ingredient he needed to help change his life.
"I didn’t expect for it to turn into what it was going to today," Hinman said.
Long before Hinman Pies, John was plummeting toward rock bottom. Nearly homeless, and facing jail time, he left the fast-paced, high-stress restaurant industry to get sober.
"(I) took about a year and a half off and came back to the restaurant business and I saw the same sad eyes that I once had and I wanted to to something about it," Hinman said.
Three years ago, CHOW, or the Culinary Hospitality Outreach Wellness group was born.
"CHOW's all about hearing your story come out of someone else's mouth and learning you’re not alone," Hinman said.
CHOW gives hospitality workers a safe place to share their struggles with mental health and addiction through virtual and in-person meetings. It became a lifeline for an industry hit hard by the pandemic.
"My problems that I say I face mostly are depression and addiction to alcohol," said Megan Knowles during one virtual meeting.
"That's how I've kind of medicated myself — through food," Sean Kenyon explained during another virtual meeting.
"Watching it get a little bit bigger, it’s amazing. It’s really, truly amazing," Hinman said.
CHOW now hosts meetings four days a week and has expanded to Colorado Springs and Steamboat Springs.
"What we’d like to see is people start talking about it, start addressing it and changing a little bit about the industry," said CHOW Executive Director Erin Boyle.
For Hinman, who is still sober, making pie brought out the best in him, something he wants for others in the industry too.
"We all have this pain in our heart and how do you fix what you can’t heal? How do you fix what you can’t see? It’s by talking about it, releasing it," he said.
For more information about CHOW, or to make a giving Tuesday donation, visit www.chowco.org.
Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.