Pollywood: Apron Clad Hero

by Catherine Trifiletti

José Andrés has served Puerto Rican victims of Hurricane Maria over one million hot meals.

Jose? Andre?s serves food to children in Puerto Rico (Twitter/ Jose Andres)

When Hurricane Harvey struck Houston in August, Washington area chef and philanthropist José Andrés wasted no time mobilizing a team from his nonprofit World Central Kitchen to deliver food and supplies. When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September, Andrés again raced to action, setting up ground relief to cook and serve meals to victims of the devastation.The newest numbers show that Andrés and his team have served Puerto Ricans over one million hot meals, surpassing aid from the American Red Cross.

In Puerto Rico, FEMA has reported that only 14 percent of the island has power and millions are stranded without access to basic necessities like food and water.Andrés and his team began serving dishes like paella and traditional Puerto Rican stew, employing what- ever means possible including mobile kitchens, restaurants and food trucks. The opportunity to serve on a larger scale came when they were able to move into the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan, where access to the commercial kitchen afforded Andrés and his team the ability to cook 60,000 meals a day. Images and videos from Andrés’ social media channels chronicle the massive operation. He has used Twitter to keep his followers updated on the progress of meal delivery using the hashtag #ChefsForPuertoRico. It was there he reported that after three weeks, 15 kitchens and 500 plus volunteers, they had served their one- millionth meal.

Andrés hasn’t been shy about slamming President Trump on Twitter for what many consider an insufficient response to the disaster.Trump has repeatedly called Puerto Rico’s cries for help dramatic and after landing on the island, he was heavily criticized for tossing paper towels to those who had gathered to hear his recovery plans. The tension between the chef and president isn’t a first. Andrés notably backed out of a deal whereby one of his restaurants would open in the Trump Hotel after Trump’s controversial comments on immigrants.

Andrés has vowed to keep serving meals until the need has subsided. In the mean- time he is looking to his connections, partners and regular citizens to provide support. Goya recently loaned the nonprofit a helicopter to transport food to isolated mountain communities. On Oct. 13, chefs from 150 res- taurants across the country united for World Central Kitchen’s fourth annual World Food Day, giving 10 percent of proceeds to efforts in Puerto Rico.

The chef founded World Central Kitchen in 2012 to focus on “smart solutions to end hunger and poverty.” The organization zeroes in on communities using food as a tool to empower people through education and job creation. Many of his projects began in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Andrés cites resilient Puerto Ricans as his motivation to keep people fed. He recently told the Washington Post “The reality here is very hard to escape,” asking “If we don’t do it, who’s going to do it?”

HOW YOU CAN HELP: The relief efforts are far from over — donate to World Central Kitchen to help fund food, fuel and supplies that will keep José Andrés and his team cooking.

Visit worldcentralkitchen. org/donate

This article appeared in the November 2017 issue of Washington Life Magazine.

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