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From hopelessness to head chef at The Bowery Mission

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Chef Raffaele shares how he sees others nourished with meals and hope the same way he was just a few years ago

Growing up, my family’s Italian roots ran deep. Holidays were filled with food and love. But when my dad had a stroke, I had to become the man of the house. I tried my hand at boxing matches, but the prize money wouldn’t make ends meet. So I began working for extended family in illegal activities. When my uncle needed something done, I was the muscle. But it was never safe — it was easy to end up dead or in prison.

My personal life hit a low point when my high school sweetheart and I lost our daughter to leukemia. We didn’t know how to deal with the grief, so we turned to drugs…and my girlfriend overdosed.

Not long after, my mistakes caught up with me, and I went to prison at Rikers Island. I openly blamed God for everything, so a guy told me to read the book of Job. After everything he lost, Job never cursed God. His story changed my heart.

Shortly after leaving prison, a local pastor brought me to The Bowery Mission. It was a safe, welcoming place to heal from my past — things I’ve done wrong and things done wrong to me.

Since I’ve always loved to cook, after graduating from The Bowery Mission’s program, I worked my way up at a high profile restaurant in Manhattan, from dishwasher to Sous Chef. When the opportunity came to serve at the Mission, I knew God was calling me here.

Today, I am not only a chef at The Bowery Mission, I’m able to see others nourished with hope the same way I was just a few years ago.

It’s an honor to share the gift of food and — more importantly — hope with people experiencing homelessness, hunger, addictions and other hardships. Nothing is more valuable than seeing a life transformed. I am living proof.

When men, women and children come to The Bowery Mission and are lovingly served a meal, they start to see their life has value. This simple act of kindness leads to a path of life transformation, just as it did for Chef Raffaele. Your monthly gift provides vital relief and real hope to people living on the streets and experiencing crises. Help provide meals, shelter and tools that make new beginnings possible. Your monthly giving will change so many lives!