From working in renowned resorts across the globe to apprenticing at the most iconic Windsor gastronomic institutions, chefs Scot Brooks and Sergio Zevallos bring a world of experience with them when they walk into a kitchen.
As 519 Chef Hustle, they also bring passion, culinary creativity, and a heaping spoonful of witty banter.
Born from the pair’s shared love of entertaining, 519 Chef Hustle is a catering service that specializes in private at-home dinners, corporate caterings, and interactive cooking demonstrations, with Brooks and Zevallos utilizing their decades of experience and cultural backgrounds to craft one-of-a-kind, fusion-style menus featuring locally-sourced ingredients.
The concept for the business came to fruition at the tail end of the pandemic, as restrictions on gatherings were being lifted and people were hesitant to dine out in large groups.
“There were still some restrictions and people were still uneasy about going out, so the idea was let’s cater to those small gatherings,” explains Brooks. “Like, you can’t come to us? We’ll come to you.”
Zevallos says the pair had known each other for over a decade and would consult each other on various projects throughout the years. Although their expertise and culinary preferences differed somewhat, they knew the yin and yang of their partnership would allow them the opportunity to offer something unique to people who were looking for new food-themed experiences in the area.
“Our styles and knowledge are very complementary,” says Brooks. “When it comes to fine dining, Sergio is more versed in that, whereas I’ve got more experience in dealing with catering, so we really feed off each other.”
“We knew that we worked well together. We knew that we both wanted to be entrepreneurs,” adds Zevallos. And with both chefs having worked in the industry from a young age, they also knew they wanted to pursue a business that offered more flexibility and creativity than a traditional brick and mortar could provide.
“What we do with 519 Chef Hustle is different than the everyday. I think we can both agree that we would never want to go back to work on the line in a kitchen,” says Brooks. “Doing this, we create our menus, we know who our clients are, and we get to interact with them. Everybody’s happy.”
“Having managed many restaurants, it’s quite a tough gig that takes a lot of sacrifice,” echoes Zevallos. “This is something we see as a viable business for us as opposed to being stuck in one location, potentially facing some serious challenges, like a lot of restaurant owners are right now.”
Following a “ghost kitchen” model, the pair currently works out of Other Place Catering on Walker Road. They have also found a place to call home in Forest Glade Fireplaces, where they host their popular cooking demonstrations in a fully functional showroom kitchen, equipped with all the latest foodie appliances and accessories including a pizza oven, smoker, barbecue, and more.
During these monthly events, an intimate group of diners are treated to a multi-course dinner prepared right in front of them by Brooks and Zevallos, who explain each of the dishes and the various techniques that go into preparing them.
The opportunity presented itself in early 2023, shares Zevallos, when a colleague recommended the duo to the Forest Glade Fireplace team, who were looking for a unique way to showcase their product offerings.
“To us, it’s all about product education, supporting local, and building community,” says Cathy Chimienti of Forest Glade Fireplaces. “These guys are a joy to work with and I’m always learning something new every time I watch them.”
Looking at the year ahead, Brooks and Zevallos are excited to continue growing 519 Chef Hustle; hosting more cooking demonstrations (which continually sell out,) as well booking more caterings, and offering some of their signature sauces and dishes for purchase, including their popular empanadas and guasacaca; an avocado-based sauce popular in Zevallos’ native Venezuela.
“We’re really focused on growth this year but I think it’s also important to enjoy where we’re at,” says Zevallos. “We’re at a time in our careers where we want to be happy in what we’re doing and to bring that joy and passion to others.”