SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A Chula Vista chef has raised thousands of dollars for struggling restaurant workers one pizza pie at a time.
Willie DePascale couldn't stand the monotony of the pandemic.
"I was just going crazy," he said Tuesday. "I was just sitting in the back yard, reading and reading, I said I gotta do something, I gotta do something with my hands."
DePascale's had a very successful career in San Diego's tourism industry, including spending years as the head chef for the U.S. Grant Hotel.
He's seen, however, the impact of the pandemic on other restaurant workers.
"These people give their heart and soul, every weekend, every holiday, they put you before their own family and it's my time to give back," DePascale said.
DePascale invested about $7,000 dollars to build a professional pizza kitchen in his backyard. These days, he makes 15 to 20 pies a day for his operation called Big Willie's Pizza Pies for a Cause.
He lists 10 different varieties of pizza on his website, each with a suggested donation. When DePascale gets an order, he uses his proceeds to save up for $500 gift cards at places like Target and Albertsons, which he delivers to impacted workers. So far, he's made 650 pizzas and donated $4,500 dollars in gift cards.
"To give the money away to the right people that deserve it, that have serviced us for so many years. It's what I'm about," he said.
DePascale said about 70 percent of the suggested donations go to workers.
He delivers the pizzas himself, which come ready to be reheated.
There's only one kind of pizza DePascale refuses make - those with Canadian bacon and pineapple.