Hood Chef was born Hector Vasquez on February 29—which means that the rail-thin, tattoo-covered Brooklyn resident has been bucking the norm pretty much since birth. Like many growing up in the Borough of Kings in the 1980s and 1990s, Hood Chef was constantly inundated with the idea that slinging rock or having a wicked jump shot were the only viable options to get off the grimy corners of Crooklyn. He escaped the street life without doing either, but he stayed in the hood—because that’s where he felt most needed.
“I want to make giving cool,” Hood Chef matter-of-factly states when asked about his plans. The question is supposed to pertain to short-term goals—where he wants to do the day’s food shopping, whether or not we should smoke a bowl before hitting the store. But this chef, video artist, humanitarian, and #4FUN crew founder wants to talk about the bigger picture.
“I want to influence people who have extra money to throw around to throw it in the right direction,” he continues. “People I know will go to the strip club and spend $20,000. Sometimes, collectively, they spend $100,000. I want to help them see how that money can help more people. I want to show them how it’s cool to help people and do positive shit like that. I want to make it cool for them to use the money in a more positive way.”
Chef grew up in Brooklyn’s Kensington neighborhood, where his mother would cook traditional Puerto Rican food as well as dishes from other cuisines like lasagna and mashed potatoes. As he got older, he started shooting a video series called “Savage Life,” where he interviewed local rappers. (One of his pre-chef-life nicknames was Savage.) When his mom was set to retire and move to Florida, he asked her to teach him some recipes and collaborate on some cooking videos. “It didn’t work, though,” he laments. “I was still too much of a novice to make the rice correctly even with her instructions.”
Five years later, though, he got the hang of it. [...]