VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Some inmates at the Virginia Beach Correctional Center are learning the recipe for success.

About 40 inmates help cook meals for their peers in the kitchen each day, and now, a new program at the jail is helping give them tools they can use to get a job once they get out.

The trustees have to apply for jobs in the kitchen and then they can work their way up through the ranks depending on how hard they work.

“It’s really about bringing these guys in, putting them into a professional environment, dressing them in a professional uniform and holding them to professional standards,” said Food Service Director Steve Wilke.

All of the inmates, though, will get the chance to get their food handler cards when they’re released.

This shows that they’ve worked with food before and could get a job at a restaurant or at a grocery store when they get out.

“They can go to their employer and say I know how to do this, I know how to do this,” Wilke said. “That just gives them a leg up as they transfer out of jail and into society.”

Each day when they come in, they also learn a lesson before they plate the meals.

“I’ve learned a lot,” said inmate Justin Manatis. “He’s taught me to have self respect, don’t second guess myself, judge my time better.”

Inmates like Manatis and Mike Brown say they’ve worked in restaurants before, but this is different.

“It was nothing like this,” Brown said. “I think this is 1,500 people were feeding every day so it keeps us busy. It’s a lot better than sitting in a cell all day long.”

Wilke was hired on as a Virginia Beach sheriff’s deputy in 1985.

He then retired and came back to work in the kitchen with the inmates. He said the skills they learn here — like work ethic, being on time, and following rules — can transfer to any job.

“We can have a positive impact on people if we choose to do so in this type of career,” Wilke said. “I’ve always tried to look at it from both sides — you know, we do have to keep society safe, but we should also be responsible to make sure that when these guys come in, we are at least giving them the tools they need to be successful when they get out.”

They prepare and plate meals for their peers each day — and it gets even sweeter. Malcom and Quentin made us a 10 On Your Side cake.

“We knew you were coming so I gave my bakers a project,” Wilke said.

Showing that you can have your cake and eat it too.

“They do come up and say, ‘thank you for what you did for me Mr. Wilke, I’m doing well,'” Wilke said. “That’s the big part of this, is to know that you were able to make a difference in somebody’s life.”

“He inspires you to do better and that’s what this program is all about,” Manatis said.

The inmates we spoke with say they aren’t sure if they’re going to get a job in the restaurant industry after they leave here, but they say the skills they learned will help them wherever they go.

The Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office holds job fairs with second-chance employers. They recently were able to help several inmates get jobs upon their release.

“It’s part of our pre-release program,” Wilke said. “They have something to fall back on, rather than just going out to the same environment that they came in under.”

If you’d like to be a second-chance employer and learn more about their next job fair, call the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office.