Chef Harold Villarosa quit his successful job as a chef and started The Insurgo Project in NYC - an initiative to address local food insecurity.Insurgo is a community collective committed to nurturing the farm to table movement in low-income neighborhoods throughout the country.
Huge thanks to BONO Trattoria for letting us use their beautiful restaurant!
"The earlier days of being a chef/cook were very difficult. It was really hard to keep up. My prior training came from places like McDonald's on 34th and 8th avenue, where crackheads to this day hangout inside for free water.
I worked in Michelin kitchens where cooks with their top notch education were paid $80k just to end up with this guy from McDonald's, who had no college debt and grabbed his spot from sheer will and passion. I was picked on, had my tools stolen (especially my kunz spoons), sabotaged during pick ups, and called names. And that was just my team. When it came to cooking, I burned a lot of shit, especially my arms and hands, haha."
"It was a terrible time, chefs I looked up to and drank the Kool Aid for happened to work in these fancy ass restaurants where I was treated like shit because of the color of my skin. I soaked it all in man, I've been fired, kicked, been on the receiving end of flying food, and called a loser a few times. Ultimately, it helped me realize everyones role in teaching me a life lesson; no one is ever giving it to you, you got to go out there and take it. I've lived that way ever since."
"I'm a student of Thomas Keller who preaches three things: nurturing, finesse, and persistence. I've always been the type to give back to my community; to not forget where I come from; and to achieve the impossible. It was a perfect time to create Insurgo.
Kids in neighborhoods like the South Bronx or Washington Heights, who don't know about these products were never mentioned. All they know is Doritos and Coca Cola. So I decided to bridge the divide with food, bring people together and start a conversation. That's what Insurgo is, an ignition to talk about change, both in food justice and social good space."
"Insurgo inspires me, it’s all about knowing that anything impossible can be made possible. We partner with places like the #4 restaurant in the world; we see inner city students name native plants they pass at parks around the city; it's about showcasing top chefs in top kitchens via hands-on cooking lessons for Bronx Jr. High students;
It's about going to the Food Network with a bunch of young adults who go nuts when they see personalities who are famous for making great, ethical food. This lifestyle can be just as stressful as opening a top restaurant, but the rewards, the rewards are more fulfilling.
"At 13 I told my mom I wanted to be a chef. She said to get another job because they don't make any money. I laugh about it now, but it hurt at the time. It all unfolds in ways hard to predict, so I just used my natural talents of observation, problem solving, and a sickening love of reading to make this path possible."
"I certainly support New York grown products and local artisans. We have lots of friends in those businesses. But if a guy, or gal, in Maine has the best lobster, and they respect the product, environment, and local community the way all truly deserve to be respected, then that’s the product I go with."