Log In

Reset Password

From a prison cell to the kitchen

Tyrone Pedro, former Westgate inmate turned chef (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Working in the kitchen keeps Tyrone Pedro focused. He doesn’t want to spend time thinking about how he killed his friend, Steven Iris, four years ago.

The 27-year-old spent two-and-a-half years in Westgate for the crime.

“If I keep focusing on what I did, then I won’t have time to focus on what I want to do. So I try to just keep thinking ahead, not thinking back,” said the aspiring chef who was released on parole last year.

“The person I killed was my friend. He had just gotten out of jail. I took him in, I would let him wear my clothes and I would take him out. One morning he woke up, acted out, tried to attack me in my own bed and I stabbed him in self-defence.

“I was acting out of impulse.

“It wasn’t until later that I realised I had other options. I could have run away. We would both still be here.

“I stabbed him once and he never made it out of surgery.”

A jury convicted him of manslaughter. He went to prison — and came out motivated.

“I got out with a vision in mind and a couple of short-term goals to start working towards that vision — school was one of them,” he told Lifestyle.

Mr Pedro enrolled in the culinary programme at Bermuda College last year. He also got a part-time post in the kitchen at Ascots Restaurant, and put his name out there for catering jobs.

“I’ve worked in and out of restaurants for most of my adult life — as a bartender, waiter, porter, you name it,” he said.

“One of my life coaches, Chris Crumpler, had said, ‘If you want to be the best in your field then you have to ply your trade with people who are the best.’

“I said, ‘Then I’ll have to ply my trade at Ascots.’ I approached Angelo [Armano, Ascots’ co-owner] and he gave me a chance, even knowing my background.

“A lot of people wouldn’t take the chance on somebody straight out of prison. He could tell I was serious. I will go the extra mile because I have more to prove than your average person.”

Every day, he reminds himself: you are what you think.

While his fellow inmates would kill time reading urban novels, Mr Pedro looked to self-development, studying books by James Allen, Zig Ziglar, Keith Harrell and Napoleon Hill.

Mr Hill’s message that it was important to set expectations if you want to improve your life, particularly resonated with him.

“He made it seem more practical when a lot of books make it seem like magic. It’s not like you just keep thinking about it and it appears in your life, if you desire something you have to take the steps towards achieving that goal.”

On Wednesday he will take part in Plates of Passion, a charity food show put on by the Bermuda Hospitality Industry. Experienced chefs partner with Bermuda College students to prepare meals for the annual event.

Edmund Smith, head chef and co-owner of Ascots, chose Mr Pedro as his partner.

“It’s supposed to be random, but Edmund was insisting on working with me because he knows that I can produce,” said Mr Pedro, who hopes to head to university to study business when he graduates in May.

Although happy with where he is now, he wishes he had focused on his future earlier. Because he did not, he has a string of court appearances behind him.

“I didn’t have an end goal. I was drifting. When you’re drifting like that it’s easy to lose focus and get distracted and get caught up.”

He believes that young men are often given “unhelpful” advice that “shapes the way they think” and influences their actions.

“Sometimes your past can condition you. Things you go through reflect on how you behave today.

“I’m in a sociology class right now. It talks about the things that condition you. It could be your family, your friends, school, the media, the workplace. Out of all of those things, I just happened to come out with the ideals that I had.

“They weren’t the best of ideals but they were our ideals and we lived up to those ideals.”

He counts himself fortunate to have had great help in moving along his path.

Larry Mussenden, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Rene Lightbourne, his parole officer and the team at Ascots and his sister, Trina, were among them.

“There were a couple of inmates on similar paths,” Mr Pedro said. “Communicating back and forth with them was positive reinforcement. It helped me recreate myself and shape my character the way I wanted it to be and how people would perceive me as a more positive, productive person.

“You could have all the talent in the world, but you’re not going to get far without a strong character.

“You are what you think. If you have a negative attitude then you’re going to run into negative consequences. If you think positive, then you can live a positive lifestyle.”

$50 from each ticket for Plates of Passion will go towards scholarships for the participating students. Tickets, at $185, are available on 295-5049>/i>