Chef Furard Tate is the kind of man who never sits still. He flits from the order desk at Inspire BBQ back to the busy kitchen, where young men are seasoning sauce, cooking macaroni and cheese, and finishing off some dry-rubbed ribs smoked on a grill.
“We grill on a real grill,” Tate says. “None of this electric stuff.”
But as important as the food is, Tate says it’s also important that it’s made by young hands who must learn a slow, consistent process.
Washington, D.C., has a thriving restaurant market with a plethora of restaurants serving its multi-cultural residents. But this barbecue eatery offers more than food on its menu.
Inspire BBQ aims to reclaim troubled young people, teach them a trade, and give them a chance at success.
“When an adult realizes that a young person took that process and is actually learning how to make everything, it actually means even more, because it reminds us that: My education started at home,” he says.
Tate spent 11 years providing food for charter schools in Washington, D.C., but then realized that training young people was important to him — especially in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. It was damaged in the chaos that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.
“H Street was one of the major streets that were damaged in the riots,” Tate says. “The transformation, the pain and the hardship that was in this corridor; I just always believed there was something that I had to do to bring love back to the community.”
Daniel Gaskins came to Inspire BBQ through a summer jobs program after dropping out of Saint Paul’s College in Virginia, where he finished only one semester.
“I was real lazy,” he says. “I did just enough to get by — and then it was just like, I can’t always get by.”
Gaskins, 22, says Tate’s example made him want to achieve more.
“I want to open my own restaurant,” he says. “It wasn’t what he said. It was the energy that he gave off.”
Inspire employee William Weaver is a Washington, D.C., native who worked with young people while he was in high school, but ended up incarcerated for 18 months.
“I had a very, very, very bad attitude,” Weaver says.
Now he’s here, thanks to an employment program called Project Empowerment.
Weaver is also in a training program for first-time businessmen at the nonprofit Opportunities Industrialization Center, which helps the poor and unemployed with job skills.
“I’m going to open my own food truck,” Weaver says. “I’m naming it after my brother, who was murdered here in D.C.”
Sam Moultrie has only worked here for three months, but Inspire BBQ is helping him get back into cooking. He says he was lucky to get a scholarship that took him from Anacostia High School to the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont.
“I was basically in the street, so if I [hadn’t gotten] a scholarship, I probably would be either selling drugs or locked up or dead,” he says.
Moultrie worked consistently around town after his scholarship, but wound up in jail for six months.
“After I got out of trouble, I started trying to get back into the cooking field, but it was really hard for me to get back in with the stuff I had on my record,” he explains.
He was later offered a job at Inspire BBQ.
“I’m getting used to working with my own people and bettering the community,” he says.
Chef Tate says there’s a simple reason it’s important to him to help empower young people.
“Work is the only way to get out of poverty,” he says. “And to be working effectively, you have to be trained.”