I am Hector “Savage” Vasquez and I learned how to cook from my mom. The Funny thing about it is that back in 2000 before I moved to Staten Island I didn’t know how to cook. I was like, “Yo mom cook and I’m going to film you.” I filmed her cooking three different meals. That’s kind of how the “Hood Chef” started. I studied that shit and watched it every day until I learned how to cook those meals.
After I moved out of Staten Island, everything was cool because I had a little job, I had my shorty, I had my apartment. Then, everything started falling apart. I lost my job, me and my girl broke up, and I lost my apartment. So I picked up my camera and was just catching all different types of footage.
This is where Tamer, Brooklyn T comes in. I knew this n**** for like mad years. So I’m walking around with my camera and I bump into his brother. He was like, “Yo what’s up man, what you doing? Have you spoke to my brother yet?” So I told him how I’m just doing this video shit walking around with my camera. He tells me, “Holla at Tamer, cuz you know he’s doing that music thing.”
I felt bad because I had no cell phone, no money, and I haven’t talked to Tamer in like seven years. His brother picked up his phone dialed Tamer’s number and it was all love. I wound up chilling with him that same day. We met up at his homie’s house. They had the studio, with mad people in the crib. It was mad hood.
I recognized everybody from when we were mad young back in the park days. So we’re there burning an “L” and everybody loved when I told them that I was doing videos. I told them I was homeless kinda and they said, “Yo you wanna stay on the couch n***a?” I was like ,”Word I can stay here? There’s no beds in this apartment” and they was like, “Crash where you crash.” I don’t even know them like that.
I moved everything I had in there and was living there for like three months with these dudes I don’t even know and I’m experiencing shit I don’t even know and hood Chef really wasn’t even born yet. Cuz it’s me and him (Tamer) every day eating one Chinese food combo meal. Everyday splitting it between the two of us like poor people. Holes in my sneakers and no money left me walking around like a bum.
I was waiting for unemployment to kick in, so I went to Florida in the meantime to visit my mom. While I’m down there, Tamer calls me up and says “Yo the dude you was living with got evicted.” So he brought all my stuff to some garage and all of it got fucked up cuz the roof leaks and had holes in it. All I could salvage pretty much was my clothes.
I found another hood crib with a room for rent, and being that I had to do a filming of Howard homecoming, I just moved in and dropped everything off at the new place and headed to D.C. I’m at Howard one day I get another phone call from Tamer and he’s telling me, “Yo the new people you living with just got evicted.” So I moved out of that house and T took me to another homie’s house. All this moving happened within a matter of a week.
So now I’m living with these Crips now. This one was even wilder than the first crib. Once again when they found out that I do videos they started wilding. They offered me an empty room in the back. I lived with these dudes for three years. This time, every apartment they moved to, they took me with them. “Hood Chef” was born in their house. We was still broke though and we had maybe 10 dollars all together. I said, “With 10 dollars I can buy chicken, rice and beans and cook it for all of us.”
The Hood Chef was born.
Tamer filmed “Hood Chef” as a kind of segment for my show called “Savage Life.” We was hungry, high and broke. So we started doing it every day. The next day we ate hamburger helper, and the next day we ate something else. “Hood Chef” started buzzing, but not too much so we went back to hip hop and the recording of “Savage Life.”
During this break I started getting tattoos. Me and Tamer had our hands in a lot of different things. Then, one day, Tamer says, “You haven’t done hood chef in mad long and you about to cook that steak. Let’s do it.” I was mad high and shit and I started singing some song “dah dah dah Hood Chef Hood Chef you know I’m back.” The next day on Youtube people started replying, “Yo that shit’s the theme song I love that song.” I went to the studio, dropped it, and that became the intro to the show that I use now.
Even though “Hood Chef” was buzzing we weren’t really paying it much mind. Then my Mexican tattoo artist (Badder Israel) calls me and says to come to his shop because there’s an important guy from NYU there. Turns out this guy is from the Daily News. He starts telling me, “I really want this interview, I pitched the idea to my editor and he fell in love with it.” I did the interview over the phone and the photographer came through. The picture in the newspaper was taken right here on the roof of my building.
From there, I started getting phone calls early in the morning and hits like crazy on our website. We’re not getting 100,000 hits a day but we do get value views. The people watching our videos are the important people. We have unique users, cult followers, and we got people who been following us for four years and even from out-of-state. People in the industry follow us, people who count.
Now we’re shooting the pilot. Hot 97 popped us off and gave us promo by joking around saying that the “Hood Chef” only cooks crack. It was hilarious and every bit of promo like that helped us get off the ground. Now it was time for me and Brooklyn T to really start taking “Hood Chef” more seriously because our buzz was huge and new blogs were coming out everyday about us.
We finally put our hip hop on the side and started making more episodes. So we started making one episode, two episodes, three episodes, vodka chicken pizza sandwich. We did an episode in my close friend’s father’s butcher shop in Manhattan. We did the show and that went well because it caught the owner of Whole Foods attention. The manager of Whole Foods brought us back to do a paid episode in D.C. We hooked up with whole foods and now they commission us to take videos and shit like that while we shop in their stores.
Right now, we got the “Hood Chef” food truck coming out and we’re going to have all the signature sandwiches and foods on there. You’re going to see it all over the five boroughs. It’s going to be like an ice cream truck and shit. We’re also working on a cook book. We started with two lap tops and a hard drive. We’re shooting the pilot with Aristotle from the production company By Any Means Necessary. He did work with Fabolous and a lot of big names out there so once the pilot is done it’ll be on WorldStar and Smash. We’re going to have Cool Kids, Fabolous, Ninja Sonic, Currency and others all on the first episode.
I feel like we’ve worked so hard and been through so much that we’re guaranteed to make it somehow. The networks love our ideas, and they love our swagger. The crazy shit is that celebrities walk up to us sometimes. We usually don’t walk up to celebs because we smoke. That’s what we do and we’re not going to act different because at one point all of these rappers, actors, producers or whatever started from where we are. They notice our hustle and that we’re on our grind and they come up to us and it’s all love.
Our show is going to consist of “Hood Zagat” which is where we go to a celebrity’s favorite restaurant and create food challenges for them. Hood Chef cooking time where I’ll just be in the crib or at a kitchen cooking up something easy and hood that anybody can make. We’re also going to have a segment called munchies madness for stoners or kids who come home from school and got no food.
We’re going to have cookouts, we’re going to different celebrity cribs and we’re getting all of our food from Whole Foods and from a farm. Our food is all going to be organic. It may not all be the healthiest, but it will be delicious. It’s going to be hood and good. We have three seasons already prepared and mapped out so we can’t give away too much until you actually see the new episodes. Trust me, the world is going to love the food, the features and the fun.
The following article was a Studs Terkel piece, written in the point of few of the subject, based on his own words.
Photo by Michael Cruz