NYer of the Week: Andrea Bergquist-Zamir Uses High-End Cooking Skills to Teach NYers in Need
Our latest New Yorker of the Week traded in the high demands of high-end restaurants for an opportunity to help low-income New Yorkers fulfill their culinary goals. NY1's Ruschell Boone introduces us.
She could be the executive chef at a celebrity restaurant, but Chef Andrea Bergquist-Zamir chooses to serve hungry New Yorkers.
"There starts to become, at least for me, a little bit of a monotony about how many fancy meals can you make," Chef Andrea said. "And at a certain point it just became a little bit redundant for me. I didn't feel the energy and the love that I had."
The longtime chef rediscovered that energy at West Side Campaign Against Hunger.
The nonprofit empowers low-income New Yorkers through a supermarket-style pantry in Manhattan.
In 2013, Chef Andrea developed its Chef Training Program.
"The type of people that I see in the culinary class is people who are at a crossroads in their lives who need," Chef Andrea said. "They need some sort of inspiration to move forward."
"I have always had the passion, but it has awakened my interest immensely to become a chef," student Ramon Muñez said through an interpreter.
The free 14-week, bilingual program is a condensed version of cooking school.
Alongside Chef Andrea, students get a handle of the ingredients needed to land a job in a professional kitchen, from knife skills and nutrition to resume writing and interview techniques.
"I have way much more patience," student Dominique Winley said. "I notice a lot more things when I go into the supermarket, like I'm quicker to pay attention to the nutritional values."
Students from the five boroughs head to Chef Andrea's class in the Upper West Side.
She's looking for a larger facility, and hopes to one day open a culinary school.
"She treats people with incredible respect, holding them to a really high level to do a great job amidst all the struggles people have in their lives," said Gregory Silverman, the executive director of West Side Campaign Against Hunger.
"For me, the rewards are when I hear about my students' success," Chef Andrea said. "We get that a lot, so that's nice."
And so, for empowering those in need with the recipe for success, Chef Andrea Bergquist-Zamir is our New Yorker of the Week.