The last time we spoke to Harold Villarosa he was redefining what it means to be a boss chef in the kitchen. Since then, his influence has reached many and has transformed into something special.
Watching him make moves in the cooking industry is cinematic and we couldn’t resist the temptation to see what Chef Villarosa was up to when we were invited to pull up to his most recent food pop-up at Skal Brooklyn.
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At Skal Brooklyn, the vibey setting was inviting as miniature in-pot plants and palms were placed perfectly around the quaint space. From the entrance, you could see the kitchen and Chef Harold with his creative and culinary teams. Like the homie he is, he greeted me at the door with the ultimate dap.
Next to him, was his photographer and Creative Director, Ivan Halpern. They both looked amped for the Unkle Harold’s pop-up that would soon ensue. In the background, a woman was scribing on a chalkboard – Unkle Harold’s Pop Up Launch by Insurgo – this was about to become a milestone in Chef Harold’s career.
The event marked the beginning of a new conceptual culinary initiative. Chef Villarosa spoke about the importance of his Unkle Harold’s pop up and what it means to the youth. He said,
“It’s to show everyone that you can do it too. The significance of Unkle Harold’s represents me as a chef working for other people over 18 years, being able to step out on my own, and create a pathway for me to make money…”
His pop-up is evidence that with the right mentality you can break the system. We have to teach the next generation not only how to maneuver through education but also how to navigate a room full of vultures.
Take the time you need to perfect your craft and always build on your brand. You have to find yourself before you have an organic selling point.
“You can be whoever you want to be, just be happy and leave all those problems you have at the door. At Unkle Harold’s we’re chillin’,” said Chef Villarosa.
The brand is strong.
Unkle Harold’s represents everything Chef Villarosa has done throughout his career and who he is as a family man. Including his work with the UN and their efforts to reach their sustainability goals. Not to mention his dealings with Chef’s Manifesto and US Embassies.
“Unkle Harold’s will become a hub for social gastronomy, food justice, and social justice.”
On long wooden and blue tiled tables, in the middle of the cafe, collapsible food boxes were lined up and ready to be endorsed by Chef Villarosa, stamped with an Unkle Harold’s sticker, and then filled with tasty eats.
Looking at the boxes, they reminded me of open mouths that couldn’t wait to be filled. I was hungry and couldn’t wait to find out what was going inside each box. My eyes danced around the room and my pupils landed on the kitchen once more.
Chicken thighs were frying, collard greens were soaking, biscuits were baking, and a thick cheese was melting over penne pasta in an oven. This is what would go in each box and bring a smile to everyone who purchased one.
In a way, it was like Chef Villarosa was paying homage to the chicken spots in our own respective hoods, from Church’s to Kennedys Fried Chicken. But there’s a twist, Unkle Harold is not afraid to let people know where his food comes from.
Chef Villarosa is a huge supporter of the field to fork movement and finds it very important that people are educated about where their food is sourced.
“Even though it’s fried chicken, the chicken will be one of the best chickens you’ll ever taste because it comes from a farm that treats its chickens well instead of making this mass-produced product.”
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What can’t this man do? The Filipino born and South Bronx raised culinary genius made his way to the top by raising rank in the kitchen.
Literally, he’s made moves up the culinary ladder from behind a grill at McDonald’s to working alongside Michelin star awarded restaurateur, Claus Meyer at WellPlated in Times Sq.
Not to mention the work he’s doing within the community through the Insurgo Project that ensures our urban youth have opportunities to embody the flavors from an international culinary movement.
Through Insurgo, Chef Villarosa is working hard to season the culinary game and empower people from all walks of life. Everyone embraced is “an engineer of their own faith” and although it’s food related it focuses on inspiring those who work hard.
“We speak the language of the people,” said Chef Villarosa.
Chef Villarosa is really for the people.
His assistant chef for the night, Fe, has been a long time disciple and was right alongside him the whole night while they both cheffed away to keep hungry bellies at bay. From day one she told me that Villarosa gave her a chance.
After she lost her job Chef Villarosa took her under his wing and after seeing that Fe knew her way around the kitchen it was a wrap.
“He’ll give you your freedom to do what you want to do but help guide it. He’s been like a big bro to me from day one,” said Fe.
Big bro or Unkle, whatever you want to call Chef Villarosa, we know that he is more than a mentor. Plus, his undying passion to educate inner-city youths and urban communities about healthier food options go unmatched.
Whether it’s knowledge about food sustainability or holding your hand through financial fires, for sure Chef Harold wants all to understand that there is always a way to create something.
Expect to see more Unkle Harold’s pop-ups around the globe as Chef Villarosa looks to embark on an Asian tour. Additionally, keep your eyes peeled for Insurgo as they expand into the non-profit and tech sectors.
“We’re excited and we are in a good place. We are trying to be a new type of company where we are multi-disciplined. But we always come back to our core which is giving back to the community, making sure we never forget where we come from, and uplifiting the next generation so that they are successful too.”
Peep the drip from the event below.