Hey there, my name is Ozzie Mendoza and if we've met you're probably aware that I've had a passion for cooking for as long as I could remember. It's all I talk about. But like most first- generation youth in the United States, my family's ideas of success and happiness entailed a path much different than that toward the kitchen- becoming a military officer, lawyer or medical practitioner would have easily done the trick. Still I consistently found myself cooking for the family through adolescence; internalizing and cherishing the power that food has to make friends from enemies, family from friends, neighbors from strangers. 

At 17 I begrudgingly went to school to study business, where I fortunately encountered a love for the Italian language that I would nurture for the next 5 years. I honestly couldn't have made it through school without those Italian classes or weekend dorm room dinner parties to look forward to. And it was in summer of 2009, right after receiving my "Most Outstanding Student" award from the Classical Languages department, that I finally got to study in the country that opened my eyes to many of the things I hold dear to this day- the curative nature of good company and great wine, what seasonality of food means for cultural identity, the subtle details that can make something simple so astonishingly great; an elevated appreciation for what many consider "a peasant's cuisine"- all for the first time. Suffice to say that this newly acquired Italian mindset made me feel whole. Naps after lunch were probably no small part of that.

Yet when I returned home my health deteriorated quite drastically. Due to antibiotic treatment following a near-fatal fight with pneumonia my digestive microbiota had rearranged to the point of causing chronic inflammation and bleeding of the small intestine as well as a host of other closely tied, hardly understood symptoms (collectively known as S.I.B.O.S.). After 14 doctors, 2 enduring years of invasive tests, experimental treatments and hundreds of thousands paid by insurance I took an alternative route- that of dieting and lifestyle- towards health. A lifestyle that in large part meant no complex carbohydrates, alliums, nightshades or fried foods; AKA no Puerto Rican or Italian food.

I knew this was my new path after just one week. I'll always remember how I could barely stand some days, often sleeping for 18 hours or more, and then all of the sudden I could ride my bike half a mile to class. Half a mile! This approach persisted for about 7 years; words sadly don't exist to express how painful and disempowering that time in my life was, especially when it required me to refuse an offer to visit the Italian countryside as a gift from a close friend. Yet this new path allowed me a deeper understanding of food, one probably best summed up in Hippocrates' famous quote. It also demanded that I remain in the kitchen almost constantly for those years- a secret blessing in that only through diligently preparing every single meal for myself, constantly learning new techniques and approaches to flavor and working with all sorts of new ingredients could I save myself from a future of chronic dis-ease. My passion for cooking kept me alive.

Almost a decade later and with a second chance at health, I am burning hotter than ever for life. The dinner parties eventually became grand, my largest hosting 75 guests! We finally opened a cafe; tastefully adorned with a hand-built espresso machine from the very city that I was in when I decided that I needed to make this lifestyle a permanent fixture. I never made it to culinary school so I recently became a full-time street cook. And when the recent, random opportunity came around to again visit the Bel Paese, a certain lucky irony would have it that a talented chef-restaurateur in the heart of Piedmont, the region's greatest contribution to the world being our beloved Slow Food movement, would hear my story and personally invite me back to cook, exchange ideas and hopefully host him in my city one day. 

This is why I'm here today; I simply can't do it alone.

Basic breakdown of costs:

$1050/mo rent & misc. bills for 3 months
$1000-$1200 approx. plane ticket
$400/mo approx. daily expenditures for 3 months

***anything extra will be put toward local research plus travel as well as attending the 2018 Terra Madre at Salon Del Gusto presented by Slow Food- https://salonedelgusto.com/en/food-for-change-news/

Thanks for your consideration,

P.S. Special thanks to Yves Elizalde (@azebrafromneworleans) for video shooting and editing, My girlfriend Saegan (@saeganswansonart) for holding me down and always helping me think through professional decisions, Jose Cotto (@jccotto) and Andrew Bui (@drubui) for still and video shots and all my friends and family who've shown support.


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Ozzie Louis Mendoza 
New Orleans, LA
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