[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank. If you are interested in being our next community partner, contact Mark Eckert at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
YOUNGSTOWN — Trina Williams has turned 30 years of homemade culinary experience into a catering business already known for its famous chicken fried rolls.
A Fresh Wind Catering LLC is open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. inside the Common Wealth Kitchen Incubator on Elm Street in Youngstown.
In addition to a variety of fried rolls, A Fresh Wind Catering LLC sells a variety of soul food specialties, including baked ham, mushroom burger, pineapple Ciroc chicken, Youngstown street corn with cream sauce and homemade cobblers and crisps.
Williams, 49, worked in a variety of kitchens before she began her own cooking business in her home in 2015. Her resume includes work at kitchens of nursing homes, Youngstown State University's Christman Dining Commons, the Mahoning County Sheriff's Office and Lincoln Behavioral Center.
“I just stepped out there and took a leap of faith because I knew that as long as I had use of my hands and my mind that I could make money, because I've always had a big following when it comes to food,” Williams said.
The name, A Fresh Wind Catering, represents new beginnings.
“A wind blew through my house during prayer,” she said. “That's how I picked the name. It's just been a fresh wind ever since.”
Williams experienced a troubled upbringing. Growing up on the city’s South Side, before she was taught how to form recipes, she was taught how to sell drugs as a “side hustle.”
Her family “all sold drugs. So that's what I knew,” Williams said, adding she knew she had to break the chain to protect her two children.
“I tell people all the time that selling drugs is a death sentence. Either you’re going to jail, you're going to get robbed or you’re going to get killed. Or all of the above,” Williams said. “So I just don't do it no more. I don't affiliate with people that sell drugs anymore or none of that.”
The moment Williams knew she needed to make a change in her life was when “I was on my knees execution-style and three men were in my house trying to rob me and about to kill me.”
According to Williams, the 2007 break-in was drug-related. The three men had her on the ground, naked, and were beating her when her life flashed before her eyes: She saw herself in a pool of blood, her then 15-month-old child finding her in the morning, the coffin, the funeral.
So she prayed.
“I've always been a prayer warrior. So I’m like, ‘God, forgive them.’ I just start crying out loud, and I'm on the ground on my knees, and they just kick me. ‘Shut up, we gon’ kill you,’’’ she recalled.
Two of the men went upstairs where her baby was and left her downstairs with “the weakest link.”
When she looked up and saw her neighbor walking down the street, it gave her the courage — and adrenaline rush — to escape. She ran outside into the snow and dragged the burglar with her, still praying.
“All I knew was God. Because if I died right now, I'm going to die praying. We goin’ home with God. No matter what. That's how I felt about it,” she said.
The two other men ran out of the house and opened fire at Williams’ neighbor before escaping in their car.
The prosecutor in Williams’ case was Carla Baldwin, who now serves as presiding judge of Youngstown Municipal Court.
“Years later, you'll never guess who cooked every event as she ran for judge — me!" Williams said. “It gives me shivers just thinking about it. So yeah, it's been amazing. My journey has been amazing.”
Williams didn’t know how she was going to cut drugs out of her life at first, but said The Oak Hill Collaborative, a nonprofit business incubator in Youngstown helped her.
“Pat Kerrigan [Oak Hill Collaborative executive director], he told his secretary after he tasted my rolls, ‘Get her business card and give her a Facebook page.’ That was it, and the business just took off,” Williams said.
Now, Williams' catering list includes Dr. Joyce Brothers, politicians such as U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and celebrity guests like Snoop Dogg.
Williams uses her platform to bring positivity to the community. Through grade-school cooking demonstrations, Narcan classes through Unharm Ohio, catering at political events, public speeches and community outreach, Williams’ goal is to connect Valley officials with people in the community and shine a light on important issues.
She says that’s her way to fix the issues she once contributed to in the city.
“Any wind I took out of the city, I just want to breathe it back in,” she said.