CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Mouthwatering aromas waft through the air as Knox Fuqua scurries about the kitchen at St. Marks United Methodist Church in downtown Charleston.
The menu for a lunch for seniors would include shrimp salad, chicken salad, bow tie pasta, homemade pimento cheese, and pound cake with caramel sauce.
"We'll have angel eggs," he added. "No deviled eggs around here."
Fuqua, 52, is enthusiastic about his work and the various groups he serves. He enjoys every day along with the ability to reach out to others.
"I love my seniors," he said. "We've taken some great trips together."
A few years ago, he made some bad choices that led to jail time. But Fuqua prefers to move forward with whatever good he can offer.
The former Charleston investment adviser pleaded guilty to embezzling from a company's employee benefit plan. At a hearing in 2010, he admitted misappropriating and converting $600,000 from the plan to meet demands of another client who sought the return of previous investments. Fuqua's name appeared in newspaper articles from 2007 to 2010.
Fuqua said he spent six months in prison, finding solace within the church before and after he paid for his mistakes.
"I came here in 2008," he said of his chef's position. "I went on my little sabbatical and then came back. I've always been welcome here and I stay pretty swamped."
He does not take what happened lightly.
"It changed my whole Christian life," he said. "I couldn't have done it without having some kind of incredible faith. I am much more centered. I look at people in a different way. I would never look down on anyone. I don't let all this stuff get me down."
In fact, Fuqua said he rarely discusses those dark times at all. He said if he were to post a sign in the kitchen of the church, it would say everyone makes mistakes, but the important thing is to learn from them.
He plunges into a daily routine of walking four to five miles, creating recipes and giving thanks for blessings.
When he prepared his first luncheon at the church in 2008, he contends it was terrible.
He continued to hone his cooking skills by reading books, watching cooking shows and practicing. His work is now so appreciated that folks ask him about catering big events or opening a restaurant.