Chef Roberto Mendoza won $250,000 in North Carolina after playing a $5 Hit $500 scratch-off ticket and he is giving all the money to feed the homeless.
Mendoza has cooked for former U.S. presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and also for current president Donald Trump. The 48-year-old, who has also catered A-list events such as the Academy Awards, has left the White House and now works for Sysco Foods Service.
When his mother was visiting from Guatemala a short time ago, she had an intuition which prompted her to believe that her son would win the lottery, according to Today Food. Mendoza went to his local 7-Eleven and purchased what turned out to be a winning ticket. The three-figure payout that the professional cook won was the highest possible prize for the game. According to 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.
Mendoza plans to use his lottery money to help those in need. In addition to cooking for the homeless in Charlotte every weekend, the chef also began his own charitable program in 2014 called The Chef Heaven’s Kitchen. With that organization, he works towards raising money and donations for a village in the Dominican Republic-- a place close to his heart and 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.”
Mendoza began construction on a cafeteria in the village back in 2016, and he now hopes to finish it thanks to 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. He himself went without food on certain days, when he was a little boy, 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.”