Life Video

By Hollie Bone


A former career criminal once locked up for his role in a £17 million class A drugs operation is now a chef who spends his summers making thousands of free packed lunches for poverty-stricken kids.

A former career criminal once locked up for his role in a £17 million class A drugs operation is now a chef who spends his summers making thousands of free packed lunches for poverty-stricken kids.

Chris Brown, 38, from West Derby, Liverpool, spent five and a half years in jail after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs in April 2014 for his role in a major conspiracy to traffic more than 24 kilos of heroin into Merseyside.

But after vowing to never return to a life of crime, the determined dad-of-two used his time inside to get an NVQ in professional catering and planned to use his skills to help the most vulnerable in society.

MERCURY PRESS.

After his release in November, Chris set up Gourmet Social Enterprise, which now provides hundreds of meals a day to deprived children in Liverpool, the city he once tainted with drugs, in a bid to tackle ‘holiday hunger’.

Caterer Chris, said: “A lot of people in prison say they’re going to change and they’re not going back to a life of crime, and then end up slowly drifting back into it when they get out.

“But I was determined, I said to myself the day I went in there that as soon as I got out I was never going to break the law again.

“In the last year of my sentence, I was at an open prison where I had five days of the month where I could go home.

“I had an epiphany and I decided I wanted to do something with a positive social impact and so whenever I got a chance, I would go home and started making 50 or 60 portions of Scouse and taking it into town to feed the homeless.

MERCURY PRESS.

“The more I started to look into social issues, I learned about holiday hunger and I knew I had to do something.

“Now, I’m out the door for 6am every day packing lunches for these children who are literally waiting at the door for this food.

“I don’t think I understood how bad it was until did this job, but it’s the most rewarding job in the world.

“If I can get across to people how I have changed my life and how I have got where I am today, then maybe it will help inspire others to do something meaningful.”

After buying a run-down cafe in Bootle, Liverpool, immediately after his release, Chris started contacting local schools to organise a free dinner for children in need on Christmas Eve, and even gathered hundreds of donated toys to use as presents.

MERCURY PRESS.

But when none of the children turned up, he realised he would have to bring the food to the houses himself.

Chris said: “It was Christmas Eve and I was driving around Liverpool delivering all these meals and Christmas presents to children who were going hungry.

“It was the most rewarding and incredible experience and crazy to think that just a month before I had left prison behind.

“I knew there and then that this was my calling, this was what I needed to be doing.”

MERCURY PRESS.

Since then, the ex-con’s fledgling business now serves children at six schools as well as 50 private customers a day at bargain prices to fund his mission to eradicate hunger.

His business has even caught the attention of Liverpool’s city mayor, who this summer launched a partnership with Gourmet Social Enterprise to feed deprived families and stop ‘holiday hunger’, when hundreds of pupils break up for summer and no longer benefit from free school dinners.

Chris will now spend the next six weeks providing a total of 13,500 healthy packed lunches – consisting of everything from spaghetti bolognese to bangers and mash – to children taking part in summer activities across the city.

And despite his past convictions, the young dad hopes his story might also inspire other criminals to leave the cycle of crime for good and put their time to better use a create a better future for everyone.

Chris also credits girlfriend Hayley White, 34, with supporting him to follow his dreams and he was also inspired to turn his life around for his sons Christian, 12, and Reuben, 10.

MERCURY PRESS.

He said: “I have a vision Liverpool could be the first city in the UK to eradicate holiday hunger.

“I don’t come from a deprived background myself, and I am ashamed of what I’ve done and what I’ve put my family through.

“But I’m not a sob story, my focus now is doing all I can to help these children.

“We want to do all we can to make sure that children don’t go hungry during the school holidays, by giving them at least one decent meal a day.”