Today we’d like to introduce you to Edward Evans.
Hi Edward, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I was born and bred in West Baltimore, and that’s where I found my passion for food. Growing up in poverty in the early 80s in Baltimore, cooking at home with my grandmother became my vessel to escape from the hardships that surrounded me. My grandmother hoped that cooking with her would keep me off the streets and in the safety of her kitchen. Through her efforts, I developed a passion for cooking which fueled me throughout high school at Fredrick Douglass and into my professional life. Eventually, I began traveling the world and establishing my skills as a chef. It is not lost on me that the success and opportunities I achieved were not the norms for others growing up in my neighborhood.
There are many stepping stones that one can take to get from West Baltimore to traveling the world, but not everyone is given the chance to find their way out. I thank the people along my journey who showed me a different route to take in life and lifted me up to a point where I could be successful. Once I made it on my own, I wanted to offer similar opportunities to youth in Baltimore City. I started doing this by creating a program, funded fully out of my own pocket, that offered cooking lessons to previously incarcerated people. This type of work has been my life and driver for the past 26 years.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
There have been plenty of bumps in the road for me. Many existed because of socio-economic issues. For example, when you grow up in the inner city, transportation alone can determine whether you have a job or not. The city was often a food desert, meaning there was no access to good, high-quality, healthy food. Then, there were the issues with drugs and crime, which required you to learn how to protect yourself on the street. I was learning how to get from place to place, how to access food, and how to defend myself on the street, all while trying to strengthen my craft in the kitchen and stay on a good path.
Dodging and weaving through those barriers while immersed in them was very difficult. Unfortunately, some new struggles came about after I made it as a chef. People like me often feel guilty for being successful when so many of our peers do not have that chance. Escaping means you leave others behind, and old friends begin to resent you. I have maintained relationships in my community by staying grounded and giving back. My journey was not without trials and tribulations, but my love and enjoyment of food allowed me to persevere.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
My current role is Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Cordish Gaming Group, where I lead the development and implementation of the company’s proactive efforts in those areas. I was previously Director of Culinary Operations for Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland, the flagship gaming property of The Cordish Companies. The transition between the two roles was seamless, considering I have been working on these efforts throughout my whole career. The passion for my work is the same in both roles, motivated by my own experiences. Understanding stories and being grounded made it easy for me to shift my focus to DEI and offer solutions to complex problems. I believe my heart led me to this work.
Looking back on my career, I am most proud of taking my profession as an executive chef to give others opportunities they may not have otherwise had. People often don’t want to hire people with a criminal record, but I see past their worst mistakes to their hearts and the root causes that put them in these less-than-ideal circumstances.
By speaking their language, and developing a mutual understanding of one another, they found a sense of security and support that helped them build their careers in the culinary world. My work lives on through other people this way, which is all I could ever want.
Who else deserves credit for your story?
Many people along the way have impacted me, but they will never know just how much. Action speaks louder than words, and those I view as mentors and teammates in my life always back up their promises and offer continued support. I give Cordish Gaming and Rob Norton, president of Cordish Gaming Group, so much credit for being instrumental in my journey and success. Rob once told me, “I don’t care what you do, as long as it’s for the right reasons, I’ll support you.” This promise has never wavered. In 10 years, I’ve never been told no to an effort I wanted to work on for the community or at Live! Most of this work is behind the scenes – not for media coverage.
It is also people who look like me – the thriving Black men that weren’t athletes or drug dealers – in a role of authority who took the time to teach and train me. You can’t put a price on that. I would be remiss not to thank Cindy Wolf, head chef at Charleston. Cindy and I started at Georgia Browns in D.C. She left, and I followed her to Baltimore to open Savannah’s. Cindy was a significant influence on me. She taught me how to appreciate and respect food. Lastly, I thank my grandmother, who didn’t give up on me. It is because of her that I am cooking. She taught me to love food.
Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland