Executive chef learns to serve

Jean-Claude Mille learned to cook in France at his grandmother’s knee. She had taken  him in as a child after his parents divorced. Jean-Claude remembers the love for Jesus that she instilled in him- a love that led her to dream of him entering the priesthood. Once he decided Catholic seminary was not for him, it was their shared love of cooking that replaced her dreams for his future work.
“She was the one who taught me to cook and many of the recipes I use today are ones I made with her,” he shares.
For Jean-Claude, cooking came naturally and he became convinced that his talents were his own. “Because I never had a father or mother, I left my faith and I didn’t look back. I loved the Lord but I went my own way. Cooking became my passion.”
In 1967, Jean-Claude left France and spent the five days of the day boat trip to New York City reading and re-reading his set of cookbooks. “I started as a sous-chef in a little restaurant on 5th Avenue. Within a year, when I was just 23 years old, I became the youngest executive chef in New York City. I worked so hard, but my life was all about me.” 
A vacation to South Florida was just another perk in celebrity-studded life. As an accomplished diver, Jean-Claude was immediately enthralled by the natural beauty of the area and moved to South Florida in 1975.
Jean-Claude was soon right back in the spotlight as he contributed to a new venture, a restaurant that would become Yesterday’s.
“Yesterday’s became a huge success. I was in the Newspaper every two weeks. I was working 17-hour days cooking 1,500 meals, had 53 people in the kitchen and I was running the whole show. Looking back, I realize that the pressure and not having the Lord in my heart led to my drinking,.” he explains.
Almost two decades of carousing took their toll and in 1995, Jean-Claude was living in his car and showering at the beach. A chef who had cooked for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor ate from the dumpster and drank from the garbage can.
“I would find jobs but after three or four days, they would find me drunk in the kitchen and they would let me go. Eventually, no one in town would give me a job.”
“From my years in seminary, I knew that the answer was Jesus but I kept going my own way, not realizing that I was destroying myself until I got to the point where I was waiting for the train on Dixie Highway but I even failed in my suicide attempt.”
Driving along Federal Highway, Jean-Claude was struck by the sight of the cross atop Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
“I heard the Lord speaking to me and saying, ‘Come on son.'”
For Jean-Claude, recovery was not instantaneous but a daily struggle to re-build his shattered life.
“For the first several years I couldn’t even keep a job. I had to do so much work to get better and to recover. I was very insecure and shaky – I never thought I would be a chef again. I even moved back to New York briefly because no one wanted to be near me.”
Sober in 1997, it was 2001 before someone was willing to take the risk of hiring him. It was a job at a steakhouse in Boca Raton.
“I was scared and I didn’t think I could handle the job. The owner said, ‘Jean Claude- I know all about you.’ The interview lasted for hours. She asked me about everything including what I would offer as the special of the day,” he tells. . “Everyone had warned her about me, but she took a chance and I stayed working for her until I left to join the Life .”
Instrumental in his recovery was his church family that he found at Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale. Volunteering to prep the weekly Wednesday night dinners in the caf

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