Cafe Owner Helps Women Recovering from Addiction on HGTV's 'Home Town Kickstart Presented by People'

Jodie Martin, the owner of Geaux Fresh Bistro & Bakery, employs women while they are getting back on their feet

Cheesecake is Jodie Martin's "first love," she says.

"It's how I started," says Martin, 51, the owner of Geaux Fresh Bistro & Bakery in Minden, Louisiana. "Cheesecake holds a special place in my heart because it's how God taught me to put my hand to something."

When Martin was in her twenties, she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life until a guest pastor at her church delivered a thought-provoking sermon that turned out to be exactly what she needed to hear.

"He asked, 'What do you have in your house?' based on 2 Kings 4 in the Bible," she recalls.

"I sat in that service as a 25-year-old just crying and said, 'Lord, I don't even have a house. I live with my parents. But they have a cookbook that has pictures of cheesecakes, and I really like those.'"

Inspired to make her lifelong dream of baking and cooking a reality, Martin began selling her prize-winning cheesecake by the slice in her stepfather's pharmacy in Texas, eventually opening a restaurant of her own, the ever-popular Geaux Fresh Bistro & Bakery.

Jodie Martin, owner of Geaux Fresh with her staff and family. May 7, 2022. Minden, LA. Credit: Misty Swilley Photography Hair & Makeup: Madison Swilley
Jodie Martin, owner of Geaux Fresh Bistro & Bakery in Minden, La. Misty Swilley Photography

"God showed me the way," says Martin, who is now married and has two teenage children – all of whom will be featured on Sunday's episode of Home Town Kickstart Presented by People, when her beloved business undergoes a stunning makeover.

"It's a huge blessing," she says.

So is the help her faith gave her to get clean and stay sober for the past 25 years, which she calls "walking in victory."

With God's help, she says, "I was able to walk away from all of it."

Now she is paying it forward by helping others who are just beginning to "walk in victory."

Since 2018, she has employed women who have completed, or are completing, a faith-based rehab or recovery program and live at Generation House — a transitional living space just blocks away from her restaurant — while they get back on their feet.

"Jodie's work environment is a safe haven," says Nikki Knapp, 34, who has worked at Geaux Fresh for three years.

"She's always looking out for everybody," Knapp says. "She just does things that she doesn't have to do."

As seen on HGTV’s Home Town Kickstart, hosts Page Turner, Mike Pyle and Carmine Sabatella with Geaux Fresh owner, Jodie Martin, (C) at the reveal of the renovated Geaux Fresh restaurant in Minden, LA. (Reveal Restaurant) Credit: Courtesy HGTV
Jodie Martin on HGTV’s Home Town Kickstart. Courtesy HGTV

Martin's bigheartedness captured the attention of Home Town Kickstart Presented by PEOPLE, the new Ben and Erin Napier series on HGTV honoring people who make a difference in their small-town communities with life-changing renovations.

"They were able to create a space that reflects more of my heart and gives the community a beautiful place to go in and dine," says Martin.

When she and her husband first started Geaux Fresh, "we were boot strapping it," she says with a laugh.

"I would always go into these other great cafes and look around and say, 'If only mine were to look as beautiful."

Now, not only is the restaurant gorgeous to look at, the kitchen is much more functional.

"The best thing they did was take dead space and create an extra space just for baking," she says. "So it's like I have a second kitchen now which freed up a ton of space in our initial kitchen because we very cramped in there."

Helping Others On Their Journeys to Clean Living

Every weekday, Martin can be found in her busy kitchen whipping up mouthwatering paninis, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and homemade soups, as well as baking luscious desserts including, of course, her famous cheesecake.

But she's also working hard to help the women she employs stay clean and sober.

As soon as one Martin learned that one of her best friends, Jordan Woods, was starting Generation House, she knew she wanted to pitch in.

"That just resonated with me," says Martin. "I was like, 'Those are the people that I want to help.'"

Jodie Martin Restaurant. Geaux Fresh. credit Misty Swilley Photography
Jodie Martin and her team at Geaux Fresh Bistro & Bakery. Misty Swilley Photography

Martin offers the women jobs at a time when they might have trouble finding one.

"This is about allowing them to start putting their hand to something so they can begin to build confidence in themselves, learn about responsibility and how to live life in a positive way," she says.

Additionally, she helps model how to deal with stress in a healthy way.

"When you've been in addiction for so long and something really bad happens, in the past, what do we do? Well, we want to go do something that numbs us out. And so now, we're learning how to deal with stress without those things in place, and so there's a big healing process that happens," she says.

"They're allowed to have those days where they're struggling and they need prayer, because at any given moment, one of the girls is crying, because they're having a hard time," Martin adds. "With me, it's a safe space, because they're allowed to be themselves."

And when it's time to work at Geaux Fresh, "we throw down in the kitchen," says Martin.

"I mean they're cooking, they're baking, they're washing dishes, they're running food to the customers," she says. "We work as a family. It's just like a big family kitchen and we're fixing lunch for people, for about six hours a day."

Martin likes to do things just so – "with excellence" – and wants her employees to do the same.

"I'm pretty particular about the presentation of the food we serve," she says.

If they cut a sandwich in half and the wrap splits, they remake the wrap. "If a customer picks it up and spills the wrap all over them, well, what kind of experience is that?" she says. "If we send plates out, I want them spotless."

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She adds, "So I teach them to do everything with excellence and tell them that the skills they learn here will help you in life and will help propel you into your true calling."

Her help is much appreciated.

"Jodie does all this for us because she loves us and cares for us," says Knapp. "She wants to see us do good in life and go the right way."

The episode airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on HGTV and streams on discovery+.

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