José Andrés has long been a legend in the culinary world.
These days, the Michelin-starred chef is a bona fide rock star in Puerto Rico. The Spaniard’s tremendous humanitarian efforts to feed residents on the hurricane-ravaged island have been nothing short of epic.
The Restaurateur — who owns Bazaar Mar by Jose Andrés at SLS Brickell and The Bazaar By José Andrés South Beach — traveled to Puerto Rico five days after Hurricane Maria tore through the island on Sept. 20 and went right to work.
The chef’s huge effort is just the latest led by cooks, who are showing a more agile, locally based way to feed people after a disaster.
As of last week, he and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen had served more than 2.2 million people hot, fresh food such as soups, stews and paella, reports The New York Times, which adds that no other single agency, including the Red Cross and Salvation Army, has come close.
Andrés — who also has a restaurant in the northern town of Dorado, Puerto Rico, called Mi Casa — teamed up with chefs, restaurants, food trucks, schools and volunteers to find any functioning kitchen and do what needed to be done. At one point during the effort, as many as 500 volunteers were making 30,000 sandwiches a day.
Desperate islanders were appreciative.
“He’s much more than a hero,” Jesus R. Rivera told The Times. “The situation is that still some people don’t even have food. He is all that is keeping them from starving.”
It hasn’t been an easy task. In fact, the massive undertaking has been a little nuts, says the man himself.
“Every day I have this personal anxiety inside,” Andrés told The Times. “We only came here to try to help a few thousand because nobody had a plan to feed Puerto Rico, and we opened the biggest restaurant in the world in a week. That’s how crazy this is.”
Now that the group is winding down and Andrés is back home in the Washington area, The Washington Post reports that the celebrity’s nonprofit may focus more on relief work.
“Every single big NGO [non-governmental organizations], they want to talk to us,” Andrés told the newspaper. “We’re becoming a food operation. We’ve been noticed by many, and now we have a lot of friends who are thinking out of the box and big.”