PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s been six years since the Amtrak train crash that killed eight people and injured hundreds in Port Richmond. A celebrated Philadelphia chef was left paralyzed from the accident and after years of depression and suicidal thoughts he has found a new mission.
Eli Kulp is inspiring others by sharing his journey from darkness to hope.READ MORE: 2 Atlantic City Councilmembers Request State Troopers Assist Police After Violent Weekend
“I lost the use of my hands,” Kulp said. “It was like somebody pulled the plug.”
Kulp now maneuvers in a wheelchair.
He was in the front seat of the quiet car when the Amtrak train crashed in Port Richmond six years ago.
“It catapulted me into the air and my neck hit the luggage rack,” Kulp said. “That shock and noise will always stick with me.”
In that awful moment, the celebrated chef at Fork, who was winning awards and ascending to the top of the restaurant world, was left paralyzed.
“It was devastating, devastating. This injury is 50/50 physical and mental,” Kulp said.
He says he lost his identity that was so connected to teamwork in the kitchen, but that wasn’t the worst part.READ MORE: 6 Day Workweeks And Poked By Needles: YaFavTrashman Fighting For Philadelphia Sanitation Workers' Safety
“The ability to be a father I thought I was going to be,” Kulp said. “Dylan was 3, just kind of getting to that age where you’re wrestling, you’re rolling around, you’re throwing a ball.”
Kulp says he fell into a deep depression and contemplated ending his life, but he eventually found a way through that darkness.
“I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s a scary place to be and I know with Mental Health Awareness Month it’s a real thing,” Kulp said. “I owe a lot of debt to the people that encouraged me and kept me going.”
While not cooking himself, as co-founder of Highstreet Hospitality Group, Kulp is still involved in his restaurants.
But the industry was hit hard by COVID-19 so he is sharing his story of survival and renewal.
In this new format, Kulp is celebrating Philadelphia’s restaurant scene and encouraging others to find ways to cope during the difficult days of COVID-19.
“It’s really about life and the challenges that many of us have to go through,” Kulp said.
All about finding hope and reinvention, after a catastrophic accident, the business crush of COVID-19, and just everyday hardships. This is Kulp’s new life.
“Having the opportunity to maybe help somebody, you know, sort of almost without knowing it is a positive thing,” Kulp said.MORE NEWS: Police: 2 Teens In Car Shot At Red Light In Philadelphia's Olney Neighborhood
In addition to his chef radio podcast and the restaurants, Eli is dedicated to mental health awareness, something that’s especially important now as many struggle through the pandemic.