Imagine a black child growing up in a Portuguese community near Brockton, Mass., enduring cold winters and a depressed spirit. His father has been sent away. His mother and brother are doing all they can to keep their family together. That was Corey Hall’s life, and it was not fun. “I didn’t know what to make of it at the time. I was too young to know it was depression. I didn’t know how to ask for help,” says Hall, now known as TruChef.
Hall loved the sun and wanted to be back in Florida where he lived earlier in his childhood. It would take him years to return to the South, and even longer to conquer the depression not diagnosed until he was in his twenties. TruChef’s direction shifted when his older brother, actor Pooch Hall, encouraged him to take up football. “I pretty much had to find out who I was and I didn’t know how to do that,” says Hall. “I started playing football and that was an outlet for me. I realized football was going to be my way out of Massachusetts.”
The self-taught chef started cooking before he put on his first football helmet. “I was always hungry when I was little, and my brother got tired of cooking for me,” says Hall. He decided to begin cooking for himself after a mishap with Pooch at the stove. “My brother was making me fried bologna. He got popped in the eye with some grease and we had to take him to the hospital,” shares Hall.
He continued cooking once he left behind the cold weather the day after graduating from high school. He played football in college until his junior year. By then, Hall felt he was losing focus and drinking too much. He left school and joined the military, wanting to follow his father footsteps who had been in the Special Forces. “I picked one of the hardest things I could to challenge me. I signed up to be a Navy SEAL.”
Despite that dream being shelved by a two-year waiting list for the SEAL training program, Hall went on to complete the Navy Search and Rescue training and the SERE program (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) in Brunswick, Maine. “The whole time I was still struggling with trying to figure out who I was and the drinking just continued. It caused a lot of havoc in my military career,” Hall acknowledges.
In his early 20s, he eventually followed the advice he received after being discharged from the military. He sought treatment for what might be underlying causes for the issues in his life. That took him on a journey through clinical treatment for mental illness. “I was diagnosed as being bipolar with depression and also insomnia. I wasn’t able to sleep,” says Hall. “They started loading me up on all these medications to try to get me to level out.”
Hall describes the experience as an effort that requires commitment and dedication to the program. But about five years of taking medications, gaining weight and being unable to work, he went against medical advice to find other ways to heal. For TruChef, the answers came from returning to his passion for cooking and exercise. “I moved down to West Palm Beach, and I started working with some of my Masonic brothers. I got back into the weight room and I started cooking again full-time,” says Hall.
His turnaround started with a commitment to begin the day with a 20-mile bike ride. “That 300 pounds on a little road bike, it was challenging. But I understood perseverance and I’ve had to do it my whole life. Six months later, Hall’s weight was melting off. He had stopped drinking and changed his diet to cut out starches and increase green vegetables. “Over time, my body started to change. I started taking extra vitamins and supplements and eating more often in smaller quantities.
Today at 38, Hall likes to share his approach to clean eating with his culinary clients and at treatment centers where he volunteers. He believes consuming the right fuel is good for your body, mind and spirit. “I show them how to get the freshest, cleanest products with the most vitamins. I teach them how to cook so that you don’t lose all the nutrients in the vegetables. I also make food taste good,” Hall explains.
Hall makes it a point to express how grateful he is for all of the support he has received over the years from family, friends, teachers, coaches, Masonic brothers, clients and professional colleagues. He is working on a book about his life and getting help. He wants his 4-year-old son Elijah and other people to know they can overcome challenges and should never give up on life. “I’m showing my son that a man is not defined by his past but by his actions today.”
Hall’s private chef adventures in the kitchen and his travels around the world are on YouTube and Instagram. He counts athletes and actors among his clientele. His brother Pooch, a member of the cast in the Showtime series, “Ray Donovan,” advised him to start small and build his brand from a nucleus. In addition, Hall believes in working hard to live up to the name he chose, TruChef. “I love to be true to myself. If you are true to yourself, you can smile. You have no reason to have regrets or any misunderstanding of who you are.”
Be sure to follow Hall on Instagram to see what the new year will bring along his TruChef journey.