Pizza Shop Helps Cook County Inmates Learn Culinary Skills, Find Jobs

CHICAGO (CBS) – Pizza delivery at Cook County jail is a new, tasty treat for inmates…

But as CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, those who make the pizza are the biggest winners.

Chopping the toppings, rolling the dough, stirring the sauce – all the sights and sounds you would find at a typical pizza parlor.

But this takes place behind bars and the chefs are Cook County inmates.

“Everything’s gotta be the same so it cooks the same.”

Bruno Abate, owner of Tocco’s Pizza in Wicker Park is the man behind the new program that delivers pizzas to inmates in their cells for $5 to $7.

“The goal is to give the opportunity to eat better,” Abate said.

But the mission is bigger…

“If we want to make our streets better, we have to start here,” he said.

So, Abate teaches a three-month course that leads to certificates in culinary arts.

Chef Johnathan, in for armed robbery, is confident he’ll get a job when he gets out.

“You know how to stock food, you know how to keep from developing E.coli,” Jonathan said.

The program gets high marks from Sheriff Tom Dart.

“I’ve met with the restaurant association, the said they are looking for people who have skills in culinary arts and food prep and they don’t care if they have criminal backgrounds, so we are trying to match needs,” Dart said.

Out of the 200 inmates who have gone through the program, Abate said only one has returned to jail. The vast majority get the message.

“You have to make a choice,” Abate said. “You gonna spend your life there or stay outside and enjoy your freedom.”

Up next, Abate hopes to get a food truck and sell pizzas outside the jail to the public.

Sheriff Dart wants the public to know, the program is mostly funded through donations by private donors.

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