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Chef Bruno Serato - Inspirational & Motivational Stories

Best customers-those who don't pay

Often referred to as the "happiest place on Earth," Disneyland has a dark side not too far away. Many families and children live in dire conditions in cheap motels commonly associated with drug dealers and prostitutes. For them there was no choice but to live the way they do. With no money or regular source of income, they live week after week in these cramped quarters not knowing where their next meal would come from.

When Serato, 55 learned how often these children go hungry, he said, "Kids should not be suffering. I had to do something." To date, he's served more than 270,000 free pasta dinners to those in need as a way of giving back to the community where he achieved his American dream. 30 years ago, this Italian immigrant arrived in the U.S. with a dream. His poor English skills forced him to settle for a job as a dishwasher. But over time, his cooking skills went noticed by many and within 5 years he had become chef and owner of the Anaheim White House, a local hotspot and favourite.

In 2003, Serato created Caterina's Club which raises money for underprivileged children. He named it after his mother, who taught him how to cook at the family's trattoria in Verona, Italy. When she came to California in 2005 to visit her son, he took her to the local Boys & Girls Club, the main recipient of the charity's funds. One day they saw a small boy eating a bag of chips and later realized it was his super for the day. Caterina found it unacceptable seeing children going to bed either without supper or a very meager meal to say the least.

Urged by his mother, Serato went back to the restaurant and prepared 70 pastas he would serve that evening at the club. His mother helped him the first night, and Serato has maintained the ritual nearly every night for more than six years even through the recession. During recession, he lost paying customers but gained free customers. More often than not, he found himself giving away more meals than those he actually served at the restaurant. In order to keep going, he refinanced his home as well.

A large number of "motel kids" have depended on Serato's meals. It is ironical that some of the poorest kids in Anaheim are getting food from an exclusive restaurant. Serato plans to expand his program and add 100 more kids a night as well as encourage other restaurants across the country to join in the cause to feed 'motel kids'. According to Serato, if every restaurant in the country joined together, there would be no hungry children.

Clearly, Serato's love for children stands out, but he steps aside and gives all the credit to his mother back in Italy. Although his mother pushed him to start this work, he now says he would never stop helping the children. "They're customers,"he says with a smile. "My favorite customers."

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