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25 Oct, 2011 20:55

Five-star Occupy Wall Street Chef - broke, but proud

As economic gloom and wealth inequality spills Occupy Wall Street protests out onto the streets, RT takes a look at a story of a man who went from being a gourmet chef at a chic restaurant to being a broke volunteer cook at the protests.

Eric Smith couldn't be happier.From riches to rags…an American fairytale gone sour. Eric Smith was a chef at a luxurious Manhattan hotel for six years. He used to whip up posh meals for the rich and famous.“We did banquets for 5,000, we did parties for the past three presidents there. We did a lot of high-end stuff,” Eric remembers.  The recession changed everything – these days the chef is jobless and broke after being laid off.“Right now I am collecting unemployment, which is about to run out in about three months,” he explains. The ingredients have changed too. They have gone from foie gras to lettuce and tomatoes for a simple vegetable broth, cooked up in a Brooklyn soup kitchen, where Smith volunteers as one of the cooks for Occupy Wall Street.  The 38-year-old Detroit native dreams of starting his own business – a taco truck – but doesn’t have the money.The realization that 1-in-6 Americans are living in poverty led Eric Smith to the Occupy Wall Street protests calling for change. “I’ve seen it go from bad to worse, to even worse, and it’s really happening all over the country,” says Smith of the current state of the economy. The food he and other volunteers cook at the soup kitchen gets delivered to the protesters who spend day and night camping out. Eric also sleeps here.“At the end of the night, when there are less people here, I’ll go to the comfort zone and find myself a sleeping bag,” he tells RT. Even though the chef is penniless in this revolution, he says he’s been waiting for it his entire life.“Cooking for rich fat cats in Manhattan and trying to get the food out as fast as possible, making sure it’s all perfect for them . . . The rich and poor being so separated, I always felt that was wrong. This is something that makes me feel like I can make a difference and make a change.”Even though life is tougher than ever before, Eric says he would not choose to be anywhere else but here.From relatively well off to flat out broke is not an exceptional biography to have in the US these days. Eric’s story is one of millions, but he is one of only hundreds who have found their way out onto the streets to protest so far.