D.C. Barbecue Joint Serves Food For Soul And Mind : The Salt The owner of Inspire BBQ caters to the tastes of discerning barbeque lovers, but he's also on a mission to reclaim troubled young people and teach a profession that will help them sustain themselves and the community.


Here in Washington, D.C., there's a thriving restaurant scene with a wide range of cuisine serving its multi-cultural residents. But there is one barbeque eatery with more than food on its menu.

NPR's Allison Keyes tells us Inspire BBQ aims to reclaim troubled young people, teach them a trade and give them a chance at success.

FURARD TATE: Hey, how you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: How you doing today?

TATE: Good to see you, brother.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Alright. Alright.

TATE: All is good?

ALLISON KEYES, BYLINE: Chef Furard Tate is the kind of man who never sits still.

TATE: OK. Good, Trey. Well, thank you so much for coming in.

KEYES: 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, of course, finishing off some dry-rubbed rib smoked on a grill.

TATE: We grill on a real grill. None of this electric stuff.

KEYES: 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.

TATE: When an adult realize that a young person took that process, is actually learning how to make everything, it actually means even more because it reminds us that my education started at home.

KEYES: 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 after the killing of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

TATE: H Street was one of the major streets that was damaged on the riots - the transformation, the pain and the hardship that was in this corridor. I just always believed that there was something that I had to do to bring love back to the community.

DANIEL GASKINS: I want to open my own restaurant.

KEYES: 22-year-old Daniel Gaskins says Tate's example made him want more.

GASKINS: It wasn't what he said. It was the energy that he gave off.

KEYES: Gaskins came to Inspire BBQ through a summer jobs program where he ended up after dropping out of Saint Paul's College in Virginia, where he finished just a single semester.

GASKINS: I was real lazy. I did just enough to get by. And then it was just like, I got - I can't always get by.

WILLIAM WEAVER: I had a very, very, very bad attitude.

KEYES: Inspire employee William Weaver is a Washington, D.C. native who worked with young people while he was in high school but ended up being incarcerated for 18 months. 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.

WEAVER: I'm going to open my own food truck. I'm naming it after my brother, who was murdered here in D.C.

KEYES: Sam Moultrie has only worked here for three months, but Inspire 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.

SAM MOULTRIE: I was basically in the street, so if I wouldn't have got a scholarship, I probably would be either selling drugs or locked up or dead.

KEYES: Moultrie worked consistently around town after his scholarship. But then...

MOULTRIE: I got myself back into trouble. And 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 that I had on my records.

KEYES: Moultrie was in jail for six months and was later offered a job at Inspire BBQ.

MOULTRIE: I'm getting used to working with my own people and bettering the community.

KEYES: Chef Tate says there's a simple reason it's important to him to help empower young people.

TATE: Work is the only way to get out of poverty. And to be working effectively, you have to be trained.

KEYES: Tate says that means those he is trying to help will be able to take care of themselves. Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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