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Charlotte chef’s lucky lottery win will feed the hungry in another country

Chef Roberto Mendoza makes his debut in the Taste of the World showcase.

Chef Roberto Mendoza, the former Executive Chef at Queens University whose background includes cooking for celebrities and U.S. presidents, opened a restaurant on Mother's Day this year. His restaurant, The Chef Heaven's Kitchen at 6023 Albemarle
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Chef Roberto Mendoza, the former Executive Chef at Queens University whose background includes cooking for celebrities and U.S. presidents, opened a restaurant on Mother's Day this year. His restaurant, The Chef Heaven's Kitchen at 6023 Albemarle

A chef who spends his Saturdays feeding Charlotte’s homeless won a $250,000 NC lottery prize that he will use to finish a cafeteria for the hungry in the Dominican Republic.

Roberto Mendoza is a former executive chef at Queens University of Charlotte who now works for the Sysco food service company, he told The Charlotte Observer in a phone interview Wednesday.

The 48-year-old native of El Salvador feeds the homeless “under trees” each Saturday at North Tryon Street and Phifer Avenue in Charlotte, Mendoza told the Observer.

But he has also prepared meals at events attended by several different U.S. presidents, the Observer previously reported.

Mendoza’s mother was visiting him recently when she said she had “a lucky feeling” and that he was going to win the lottery, Mendoza told lottery officials when he claimed his prize at lottery headquarters Wednesday, according to a lottery news release.

His mother’s remarks prompted him to buy a Hit $500 ticket for $5 at the 7-Eleven on Nations Ford Road. He scratched the ticket when he returned home, he told lottery officials.

Hit 500 lottery ticket.jpg
NC Education Lottery


“My hands started shaking when I saw the numbers,” Mendoza told lottery officials, according to the release. “I’ve been shaking ever since.”

He beat odds of 1 in 1.4 million, according to the lottery’s website.

After state and federal tax withholdings, Mendoza netted $176,876.

He will spend the proceeds to complete a cafeteria he’s building in the Dominican Republic to feed the hungry, he told lottery officials.

“We feed more than 300 children through my foundation,” Mendoza said, according to the release. “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.”

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.


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