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Pedro Rodriguez isn’t afraid to smile despite years of drug addiction and homelessness that have left his teeth eroded and discolored – the only indication of his past that remains. On this brisk March morning, he is running around the basement kitchen of the New York City Rescue Mission like it is the hottest restaurant in Manhattan on a Friday night. No A-list star will ever be seated in this dining room, and “bottle service” here means the 12-step recovery meeting happening upstairs in the chapel. The mission, which will serve at least 600 people today, is prepping for lunch, and Rodriguez is grinning while he mops up a puddle of leaky garbage.

Seven years ago, when he learned that the mission was looking for a new chef, Rodriguez jumped at the chance. “I was tired of saying I don’t drink,” Rodriguez said of working in restaurant kitchens where the shifts run late and the staff often partakes in an after-work drink. “I said, ‘I don’t want that, I want a job that gives back.’ ”

He has been there ever since. Now, at 42 Rodriguez is the executive chef of the NYC Rescue Mission.

Just ten years ago, he was living on the streets and addicted to crack cocaine and heroin. In 2004, after voluntarily entering a detox program and getting clean, the Brooklyn-born Rodriguez decided to enter culinary school. Cooking had always been a lifelong passion since his childhood helping to prepare cuchifritos and arepas in his traditional Puerto Rican family. He quickly scored a position at Daniel Boulud’s Midtown restaurant DB Bistro Moderne, but, just as quickly, he realized that the New York City restaurant scene was not a good fit for a recovering addict.

Watching Rodriguez today, it’s hard to believe that he was not born into this job. He pats the back of a kitchen employee and cracks jokes with some of his regulars who are beginning to file inside for a hot meal. He carefully inspects the day’s fare : pork loin with roasted potatoes and green beans ($ 2 a serving).

In 2013, on a whim, Rodriguez decided to apply for the Food Network reality cooking show “Chopped.” The series pits chefs against one another to compete for a $10,000 prize by creating three dinner courses in three rounds using obscure and often expensive ingredients. Past contestants have been challenged to concoct recipes using goat brains, rattlesnake meat and the infamously pungent durian fruit. Rodriguez got the gig. The “Chopped” producers happened to be putting together an episode entitled “Hero Chefs,” and Rodriguez appeared alongside the culinary directors of other nonprofits like The Fresh Air Fund and Careers Through The Culinary Arts Program.

His entrée of pan seared scallops and scalloped potatoes failed to impress the judges and he was eliminated. Fancy food is not his forte. After all, he is accustomed to stretching inexpensive ingredients, and his typical dinner guests are usually just thrilled to have a wholesome meal.

But Rodriguez says his experience on the show was only positive. “Some of the guys that come in [to the mission] recognize me,” he said. “They’re like, I’ve seen you somewhere before!”

After the episode aired, another influential food figure, Rachael Ray, came calling. The Rachael Ray Show was launching a campaign to raise eight million meals for the hungry to mark its eighth season on CBS. “The producers were looking for people making positive change,” Rodriguez said, “and they found me.” Afterwards, Rodriguez continued his moment in the spotlight by appearing on an episode of the lifestyle series “The Better Show” to tell his story.

But the fleeting fame did not change him. For now, Rodriguez has no plans to pursue stardom further. He is already a hero to hundreds of people daily at the mission.

“I’ve always known that this is his destiny,” said Martin Bowman, the mission’s intake coordinator, who has known Rodriguez since they were both addicts struggling to get clean. “People like Pedro are the ones who are making a difference. We need more people like him.”

Rodriguez regards the television appearances as a way to promote his greater life goals. When not in the kitchen, Rodriguez is an associate pastor at the mission and leads weekly services and AA meetings. He said he wants to help others because his own path to recovery was not easy. “He’s more than a chef,” said Bowman.

Rodriguez certainly has his hands in many pots (no pun intended), but even now he is busy planning his next project. “I want to get a food truck and give out hygiene kits, soup and sandwiches,” Rodriguez said. Since he also runs a soup kitchen in Brooklyn in his free time, he hopes to take that venture on the road with the help of his own non-profit organization he calls the Mercy League.

“You’ve ever heard of the Justice League? “ he asked with a coy smile. ”This is what we do: We’re saving lives, but we’re doing it in this way,” he said.