Roanoke spot once known for crime, now to be known for cuisine

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - A spot in northwest Roanoke is trying to turn around its image from a hot spot of crime to a hot plate of culinary education.

This building on Melrose Avenue once known as Ms. Choc's used to serve up alcohol to its patrons. Now this space is serving up a hot meal while training Roanoke's newest chefs in the process.

Where patrons once sat around a crime ridden bar, culinary students sit around this classroom table.

They're absorbed in the consumption of an edible education.

"How many pans do we need?" asks student Shaqueena Snyder.

She's learning a lot in this 12- week course.

Today she's cooking up a protein - hamburgers.

But she's hoping this course with the help of her instructor Marti Burbridge can help launch her small vegan catering business, Queen's Vegan Cafe.

"There's a lot of little things that she's told us that are starting to click and I think that's super awesome," she said.

She and her peers can be safety certified after this class- helping them launch themselves into the culinary business.

"We're happy to be a launching pad for futures, for careers, for self reinvention, all while serving the community," said Amanda Allen with Feeding America Southwest Virginia.

That's because these burgers aren't for the class.

Class time is spent helping cook hundreds of meals each week for hungry kids in the Roanoke community - many distributed on the Café to GROW food truck.

For Snyder, it's the very best thing to dish out.

"It makes me feel good about myself you know that I'm able to help out children you know who need meals who need a healthy option," Snyder said. "And at the same time, I am benefiting from it as well, on a business side and educational side."

Leaders are hoping to really grow this program and open a fresh market inside.