Chef Milas Williams. (Spectrum News 1/ Kathryn Gisi)

SAN ANTONIO – Chef Milas Williams has been behind bars for a serious robbery, but now he spends his time in the kitchen, a place he said changed the trajectory of his life and that of children on a similar.

“It all ends here, here in this ballroom here,” Chef Williams said of his students’ next cooking class graduation.

They will celebrate the culmination of weeks of work under his direction.

“I know who they are. I understand where they are now in life because I have been there. “I was on probation,” Williams said.

Chief Williams works with children serving time at the Juvenile Detention Center in Bexar. Children, who must remain anonymous, are able to perform credit service hours in this kitchen. It’s another kind of punishment for their crimes, someone Williams wishes he had grown up.

“I did my part,” he said. I did my part to harm my community. I did my part to hurt my family. I did my part to make my mother cry. “At the time in the late ’80s and early’ 90s, gangs across America were rampant in all urban communities,” Williams said.

Chief Williams said the food saved his life. After serving a prison sentence for aggravated robbery, he found refuge in the kitchen.

“Every time I read a recipe, I think about each ingredient. Each ingredient could represent my mom, my aunt, my grandmother. “And that coach who loved me at school and did not want to see me doing badly or that principal in my elementary school who wanted to see me doing well,” Williams said.

Now, with the help of his brother Derrick Williams, the couple is instructing children serving time in the kitchen.

“Summer is very exciting for me now. Where we came from, our background, our history. “It’s very touching, you know, it’s very uplifting, and it feels so good to know we’re touching someone’s life,” said Derrick Williams.

Chief Williams said he believes in the power of food and wants to use it for good.

“I think many of us as adults forget what this generation is shouting. “They are asking for love, they are asking for acceptance, they are asking, ‘hey, show us the way, because you will always tell us do this, do this, do this, but no one is telling us step by step,'” he said.