Former Salvation Army Client Celebrates 10 Years of Sobriety

Chef Jay Barnard speaks at Salvation Army

Jay Barnard, best known as Chef Recovery, recently returned to the scene of his redemption, the Ottawa Booth Centre. He came to thank The Salvation Army for his recovery and to humbly celebrate 10 years of sobriety.

A Life Out of Control

Ten years ago, on Feb. 11, 2008, Jay checked into The Salvation Army’s addiction recovery program. His alcohol and drug-addled life was way out of control.

Jay drank before he was a teenager. He smoked marijuana heavily at 12. At 14 he sold marijuana at school. He was expelled from high school at 18. By then he was hooked on cocaine and crack. Over the next nine years Jay committed thefts, assaults, motor-vehicle offences and more drug deals. He also served a number of jail terms.

Jay was more than ready for a change when he was released from jail. He found his way to Kenora community college, where he signed up for a four-month cooking program. Jay had always enjoyed eating.

At the college, Jay met a rehab worker who spoke highly to him about The Salvation Army’s Anchorage Addiction Recovery program in Ottawa.

“I moved to Ottawa and checked myself in at The Salvation Army,” says Jay, “and I have been clean ever since.”

A Spark of Hope

Jay came to Anchorage with a big chip on his shoulder, blaming everyone but himself for the miserable state of his life. “It was my first time in treatment,” says Jay. “I was lost and confused but also had a spark of hope because the courts let me come to Ottawa instead of going back to jail.

“Anchorage was a four-month program and if I wanted to stay longer I could. It gave me the understanding of what recovery is and what I had to do to stay on the journey. It also gave me support and faith that I could stay clean and sober, one day at a time.”

Post Rehab

Jay moved across town to Ottawa’s Algonquin College and enrolled in the cook’s apprenticeship program. He worked in the kitchens of Ottawa’s Delta and Westin Hotels for several months.

“That’s when I took on the ‘Chef Recovery’ moniker,” says Jay, which has become his brand and trademark. “I began giving names to recipes with words of significance to my recovery. For example, “Forever Sobering Walleye Ceviche” and “Keep Coming Back Walleye Fingers.”

After five years of sobriety, Jay moved to Fort McMurray, AB, and took a course in Executive Chef Cuisine. That’s where he met and fed guests such as Wayne Gretzky and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Two years ago, Jay moved back home to Kenora. Since then, he has become a fast-rising chef, and an award-winning fish-processing entrepreneur. He is now the CEO and corporate chef of Freshwater Cuisine, as well as executive chef and owner of Chef Recovery Catering.

Life Today

Jay credits the Booth Centre, and his five-and-a-half month stint in rehabilitation, for saving his life. At 37, he and his wife, Julie, have two daughters, Destiny, and  Shanyka.

“The Salvation Army helped me become the guy I am today,” says Jay. “You can trust the organization and its treatment program.”