Food News

Road Out of Addiction Leads to the Kitchen

The Dallas 24 Hour Club
JC Anderson in the kitchen of the Dallas 24 Hour Club.
The upcoming cookbook by the Dallas 24 Hour Club is full of recipes from some of our favorite local chefs.

On the cover, on the left bottom corner, you can see a slice of cheesecake, complementing a chicken pot pie. That cheesecake isn’t from one of the chefs in the book who has had a few years or decades of cooking experience.

It's from someone who shares that desire to propel 24 Hour’s mission to offer sober transitional living for homeless men and women seeking a new life away from drugs and alcohol — not just because it’s a good thing for the world, but because he’s been saved by them himself.

After a lifetime filled with addiction, JC Anderson has just finished his term of residency at the organization.

“If you had told me in November that a drug addict like myself, an alcoholic like myself, would be asked for a recipe for a cheesecake, I would’ve called you a liar,” Anderson, 57, says.

Anderson’s from California and grew up in Compton with the help of a single mother and 14 siblings.

“Growing up, gang affiliation was part of my life,” he says. “I played football at Compton High and got kicked out of the Compton school district because I wanted to bring my same gang affiliation things in.”

He went to Orange County then to Cal State Fullerton, where he earned a scholarship for football. But he returned to Compton and got in more trouble.

“That led to me going to prison for nine years,” he says.

Anderson would be caught with possession another time, then later go to prison again for 7.5 years (reduced to five) after a fight.

After that sentence in Arizona, he looked to make a change.

“This time I came out with a plan: I got married, my son was born and I worked at a place called Safeway Steel, at the time making that much money, it was like kind of overwhelming, and after a while I started drinking again, then within two years started doing drugs again, whether it was powder or smoking crack again,” he says.

As life went up and down, so did his reliance on drugs and alcohol. He’d go through spurts of what he calls being a “dry drunk,” not consuming drugs or alcohol but also not working on a path to sobriety.

He made his way to Waco then finally to Dallas, where he got a job at the Dallas Farmers Market.

“I had a stand there, just really wasn’t my thing. It was coming, but it was coming slow, which led me to drinking again, which led me finding where drugs are, fast-forward to 2019. … Everything is pretty repetitive,“ Anderson says.

Until he got to the 24 Hour Club in Old East Dallas.

“It was one day, and I was just really tired and just really just out of sorts and I was like, man, I got to stop this, I have to stop this … So I tried to lay down and the spirit was like, get up, get everybody out of here, get up and go get help, so I kicked everybody out of the apartment and 10 minutes later, I walked out and walked to the Dallas 24 Hour Club.”

He went through the 12 steps and lived at the organization, where he not only worked with people guiding him through sobriety but with new people walking through the doors.

“I started losing a lot of the attitude that I had, I started looking at the men and women who come through the door, because, granted, I’m the first person that they see. I don’t want them to see some grumpy old dude, I want them to know you’re safe here,” he says.

Fast-forward to 2020, and things start to look a little less repetitive. He’s stepping out of living at the 24, and he just landed a job cooking at Rapscallion in East Dallas.

click to enlarge
Anderson's mother's cheesecake recipe is in the upcoming cookbook and is pictured on the cover.
The Dallas 24 Hour Club
That cookbook by 24, serving as the organization’s annual fundraiser in place of an in-person food event, comes out Nov. 1. That cheesecake recipe you’ll find is Anderson’s mother’s.

“With there being 15 kids in a family, you have more days in a month than you have money, so she was excellent as far as baking. I mean I never knew that flour, oils, sugar and baking soda could do some of the best things that I’ve ever seen,” he says.

It was this past summer at a Juneteenth celebration at 24 Hour where Anderson made the cheesecake, getting attention from residents and staff.

“It was well-received, so much that Ms. Marsha [Williamson, CEO] gave me a call and I said, ‘I heard about the cheesecake. I’m glad the Juneteenth thing went great, but what about the cheesecake?’” Anderson says. “I’m thankful in so many ways that they asked me to be a part of that because it’s a part of something great, it's better than just a cheesecake and bigger than just a cookbook: It’s being recovered. It’s showing the men and women out there that have no idea about recovery or being recovered that we can be. Everybody has those people in your family.”

The 24 also has a working restaurant, the Hubcap Cafe. It’s inside the organization's building on Ross Avenue to provide meals to residents, but it’s also open to the public and serves as a way to support the cause. It’s here that residents can learn skills to enter the restaurant industry, as Anderson has.

As he steps into this next phase of life, living on his own and working at a Lower Greenville restaurant, he’ll return to the 24 and keep delivering the message, as he puts it.

“As we’re getting help, you can see the great things that can be done,” he says. “And the way I look at it, the new guy or the new girl coming through the door, that’s what kept me clean and sober. For me it was a win-win.”