'It's my duty to be beacon of hope': Durham chef turns his second chance into an opportunity for others

Elaina Athans Image
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Durham chef uses his second chance to help others succeed
Durham chef uses his second chance to help others succeed

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- He's known as The Cake Man in and around Durham. Dessert fans flock to Keijuane Hester's bakery for his red velvet cupcakes and flavor packed pound cake.

Hester is the nephew of one of ABC11's former anchors Ervin Hester, who made history as the first African-American news anchor in the southeast, but Keijuane has his own amazing, inspirational story to share this Black History Month.

He is serving more than just sweet treats at his shop Favor Desserts.

"I never dreamt this. None of my life I ever thought I would be baking cakes. It took for me taking a wrong turn," he said. "While I was in high school, I got off on the wrong path--started selling drugs, and throughout high school, I just didn't know what I wanted to do, so I kept hustling."

He was arrested for drug trafficking just two years out of high school and sent away to prison. It was there, while being incarcerated, Hester found his passion.

He picked up baking in the prison kitchen.

Once he served his time for dealing cocaine, Hester decided to trade in one powder for another.

"No matter how checkered of a past you have, you can always get up and overcome anything in life. That's what I want to be known for: giving somebody hope that 'Hey man, he looks like me, he got a past like me, but look at him now persevering,'" Hester said.

He has been using his store as a space to mentor teens and place them on a positive path.

"I've been doing it every summer, allowing the youth of this community to come in, get them a job and get them some work experience and work ethic," Hester said. "I want to be known for giving back in the community. I feel that if you're in a position, you should always reach back and help people overwhelm whatever it is they have going on in life."

Darria Green started off interning with him.

"I was 15, about to turn 16, and I was like, 'I need a little work experience to start making a little money so I can help my mother out,'" she said. "I applied to the youth internship."

She has since been hired as a baker's assistant.

"I am thankful because it has put me on a different track. If I didn't get the job, I probably would have just started in fast food, but I'm glad I came here. It opened my eyes to a new opportunity."

"I pride myself on being a black business owner, a leader. Us being a black race, we can identify with our black leaders. I just want to be able to be a beacon of light. I stand on the shoulders of so many that have paved the way that I can have my business," Hester said. "Being able to glean from leaders and people that inspire me, African-Americans, I think it's my duty to be a beacon of hope."