Aaron Dollison, 49, grew up in Anchorage and learned to cook from his mother. He went on to cook at Susitna Foods & Spirits and Denny’s, but he learned how to cook in bulk in prison.Dollison said he would never get involved in drugs, but it surrounded him when he was growing up. He got into marijuana, and then cocaine, and then eventually started dealing cocaine, for which Dollison was busted and sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison. His first stint was at Taft Federal Correction Institution in California, where he eventually became lead cook for 1,800 inmates. Then he cooked as lead cook for 1,600 in Sandstone, Minn. The last leg of his time was in Lompoc federal prison in California, where he was lead cook for 500.After he served his time, Dollison tried to find a job, but no one wanted to give him a second chance -- until he met Michael Bailey, food and facility director of Anchorage nonprofit Bean’s Café.Dollison has now been a chef at Bean’s Cafe for the past year and a half and says he’s happy to wake up at 5 a.m. to get to work: “I love my job.” He recalls a Bean’s fundraiser, The Pour in 2013, as the transformative moment when he knew he was welcome in society again. After much coaxing from colleagues he left the kitchen and walked around the event, talking to heads of banks and lawyers, all of whom made him feel welcome.“Right then, that changed my life,” Dollison said.Now Dollison hopes to be a model for the clients at Bean’s. Some are homeless; others are just down on their luck, he says. Dollison wants to show them that with hard work, determination, and a little encouragement from others, anything is possible.“The majority of these clients, they’re wonderful. We all make mistakes; they’re human just like we are,” Dollison said.“We’re like a big family here because we know each other. It’s great.”Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.