A chef who once worked for former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush is doing his part to give back. Roberto Mendoza, who recently won $250,000 in North Carolina after playing a $5 Hit $500 scratch-off ticket, has said he will give all of his winnings to feed the homeless.
The 48-year-old, who has also cooked for President Donald Trump and catered A-list events such as the Academy Awards, left the White House and now works for Sysco Foods Service. When his mother was visiting from Guatemala a short time ago, she had a “lucky feeling” and predicted her son would win the lottery, according to Today Food.
Heeding his mother’s advice, Mendoza went to his local 7-Eleven and purchased what turned out to be a winning ticket. In fact, the three-figure payout that the professional cook won was the highest possible prize for the game. Per The North Carolina Education Lottery, he is only one of six people to score $250,000. The former White House staffer beat odds of 1 in 1.4 million.
Instead of buying a fancy car or bigger home, however, Mendoza plans to use his prize money to help others. In addition to cooking for the homeless in Charlotte, North Carolina, every weekend, the chef also began his own charitable program in 2014 called The Chef Heaven’s Kitchen. With that organization, he helps to raise money and donations for an impoverished village in the Dominican Republic, which he visits often.
“What is in my heart, is cooking for the homeless,” Mendoza told Today Food. “This last December, I brought toys, clothes, shoes and cook for the little ones. This is a very poor village where sometimes they eat and sometimes they don’t.”
In 2016, Mendoza began construction on a cafeteria in the village, which he now hopes to finish with his winnings, which total a bit more than $176,000 after taxes.
The decision to give back with food was an easy one for Mendoza, who spent portions of his childhood going without food in his native El Salvador.
“We feed more than 300 children through my foundation,” Mendoza told The Charlotte Observer. “I know what it’s like to be hungry. I told myself when I was a teen that, if I’m ever in a position to give back, I’d do everything I can to make sure no one else has to go hungry.”
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