Chef heeds church’s call to feed homeless



The Senda de Amor church worried it would have to wait another year to deliver a Thanksgiving spread to homeless New Yorkers, until Riverdale Garden owner Pedro Vargas, 33, offered to supply the turkeys.

Iglesia Cristiana Senda de Amor, an evangelical missionary church on Manhattan College Parkway, was eager to dish out turkey dinners for the first time since the congregation began delivering food to the homeless three years ago. Superstorm Sandy prevented the Bowery Mission from supplying the poultry as planned. Pastor Richard López told Mr. Vargas the soups and sandwiches Riverdale Garden donated for delivery each week would have to suffice. But the Kingsbridge chef couldn’t leave it at that and had his staff begin basting turkeys three days before the holiday. 

On Nov. 21, Senda de Amor volunteers hauled coolers out of the international fusion restaurant, as they do every Wednesday. But last week, the crew stopped to thank Mr. Vargas for stuffing the delivery boxes with turkey, cranberry sauce and mashed butternut squash. They also honored him for donating the 100 meals Senda de Amor takes to the streets each Wednesday, as he’s done for a year-and-a-half.

“He’s been a blessing because our pressure is so much less. We used to pitch in for gas, soup containers, everything. The women would make the sandwiches and soup. The men deliver,” Mr. López, 42, said. “We’re thankful for all he does.”

A handful of church members crowded around Riverdale Garden tables and passed around platters of paella, muscles and shrimp. They honored Mr. Vargas by patronizing his restaurant and giving him a plaque thanking him for working behind the scenes.

Mr. Vargas said he was proud to help Senda de Amor deliver its first Thanksgiving meal. 

“It takes a lot of time and attention, not just on our end, but on their end because they spend many late nights looking for people out in the dark,” said Mr. Vargas, chef supervisor at Columbia Presbyterian Allen Pavilion Hospital. “We want to help those less fortunate enjoy a meal we all look forward to.”

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