WESTFORD — Allen Campbell looked out over the sea of smiling students at Nashoba Valley Technical High School’s graduation, certain there was at least one among them feeling the way he did when he was that age: alone, hopeless, despairing.
And then he recounted his story: how he went from Nashoba Tech’s culinary arts program to college to the restaurant world, how he struggled with depression and addiction, how he got sober and became interested in a sustainable plant-based diet, how his ideas landed him as the personal chef for a certain New England Patriots quarterback.
“I wanted to reach out to that person in the crowd feeling like I was and let them know, ‘You have a shot at this,'” Campbell recounted last week. “This school really gave me a foundation to stand on.”
Now 36, Campbell has co-authored the “TB12 Nutrition Manual” with Tom Brady, will deliver a TEDx Talk this month and will release another cookbook with Julie Loria, owner of the Miami Marlins, later this year.
And that whole journey, he said, started out in the kitchen at Nashoba Tech.
Born in Somerville, Campbell grew up in Chelmsford and started at Nashoba Tech as a freshman. Steve Whiting, the school’s now-retired culinary arts instructor, said Campbell was “a serious kid” at first who began to develop a passion in the kitchen.
“The more he got excited about cooking, the more I got excited about cooking,” Whiting said.
Whiting played an important role in the budding student’s journey.
Campbell looked up to him “like a father,” and he leaned on Whiting through his early challenges.
“I was so distant,” Campbell recalled. “I had a very thick wall around me and I was not letting anybody in. He just saw through it. He was one of those teachers that saw through it. Some people are born to be teachers and born to help kids. I think he was one of them.”
After graduating, Campbell went through Newbury College and then began working in Boston. But he was suffering from…