• Lake County Habitat

The ‘Chopped’ Winner, Chef Ro Has a Special Love for Habitat

While U.S. Army veteran and award-winning Chef Ro was serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, she would often fantasize about cooking in the kitchen of her mother’s home in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The Habitat home where her mother still lives more than 15 years after moving in was a beacon of comfort for Chef Ro while she was deployed to the other side of the world.

Habitat gave me a home to come back to,” she says. “That’s really important as a veteran, to have a home to come back to.”

It was the kitchen, specifically, where Chef Ro would imagine spending time, cooking her mother breakfast or experimenting with new ideas and recipes. “The kitchen is the center of the home. It’s a place of inspiration, love and nourishment for both body and soul,” says Chef Ro, who discovered a passion for cooking in that kitchen.

The kitchen, like all Habitat kitchens in the U.S. and Canada for the past 20 years, was outfitted with a Whirlpool refrigerator and range thanks to the Whirlpool Corporation. It was in that kitchen, on those appliances, where Chef Ro taught herself basics of cooking, like learning to fry an egg and make rice. It was also the place that changed the trajectory of her life.

Following her military service, Chef Ro went on to attend the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, which led to a winning appearance on The Food Network’s Chopped. “I’m one of the 197,000 families that Whirlpool has impacted through donating appliances,” she says. “I just wouldn’t be the chef I am today without Habitat putting me in a sustainable home and without Whirlpool providing me the appliances to become a phenomenal chef.”

Since the partnership with Habitat began, Whirlpool has donated 197,300 ranges and refrigerators and more than $107 million to help thousands of Habitat homeowners enjoy a place to come together and cook nourishing family meals. They also have donated more than 42,000 products to Habitat ReStores, engaged thousands of employee volunteers, sponsored nearly 180 homes, and donated products to more than 76,000 Habitat families in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In 2019, to mark the 20th anniversary of the partnership, Habitat and Whirlpool launched “Home Cooking with Love” to inspire homeowners to cook delicious and healthy meals without breaking the budget.

“Along with partners like Whirlpool and Habitat, together we can change the destinies of so many,” Chef Ro says. “My story is proof of that.”

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