The Chef That Fed Puerto Rico is Currently Preparing 10k Sandwiches for Bahamians
Two years ago, celebrity Chef José Andrés arrived in Puerto Rico to create a food network that would efficiently distribute food and water to stranded families. Within forty days, that network served more than 2.2 million warm meals and sandwiches across the island, breaking records of even the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and every government entity in history.
Today, he and his teams are bunkered inside hotel kitchens on Grand Bahama Island, preparing 10,000 sandwiches to be delivered on the very first flights to Abaco Island in the morning. Unfortunately, this will be just the beginning for Andrés efforts.
Five people, including a 7-year-old, have already been confirmed dead as Hurricane Dorian continues to ravage the Bahamas.
The videos are harrowing. Storm surges have risen as high as 25 feet above sea level. The U.S. Coast Guard is currently conducting search and rescue missions as we report on this developing story. Bahamas’ Prime Minister Huber Minnis has soberly addressed his nation in an evening news conference to relay, “We are in the midst of a historic tragedy. Our focus is search, rescue and recovery. I ask for your prayers for those in affected areas and for our first responders.” Images of the Prime Minister weeping into a napkin over the human loss have circulated as well.
As the Category 5 Hurricane made landfall on Abaco Island, it came to a near standstill, slower than 1 mph.
The immensity of the storm coupled with its unrelenting rain has created unprecedented flooding on the island. Video shared from this Bahamian family shows the family finding precarious refuge above insulation in their home, with each wave bringing in more water. As the power and cell phone towers go dark, many Bahamians are taking to social media to share the coordinates of their loved ones, hoping someone will rescue them.
Dorian has remained “nearly stationary” over Freeport, with 130 mph winds, for over 12 hours now.
One radio station on the island received more than 2,000 distress messages, including from those of a grandmother with six grandchildren who had to cut a hole in their roof to escape drowning in their own home. At least 21 people have been evacuated by helicopters, suffering injuries from the storm.
This Chef refused to stand idly by and flew into Nassau ahead of the storm to prepare for the aftermath.
Chef José Andrés and his wife founded World Central Kitchen (WCK) in 2010 as an effort to “create smart solutions to hunger and poverty,” never anticipating a need such as Puerto Rico’s after Hurricane Maria. Since then, it’s streamlined its response efforts to both natural disasters, as well as political disasters, and continues to serve children detained in the shelters along the Mexican border.
WCK works by creating a network of kitchens using private sector resources powered by dedicated volunteer chefs on the ground. “How do we organize a response in Bahamas?” tweeted Chef Andrés. “Here’s our current map we are working from…. @WCKitchen has kitchens ready to go and shelters mapped out. If kitchens are destroyed, we build one and cook in big paella pans!”
At the moment, Andrés is bunkered in Atlantis resort’s industrial kitchen, and he’s making 10,000 sandwiches for survivors.
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Andrés credits the private companies on the island, including Atlantis resort, Bahamas’ largest employer, for volunteering their infrastructure to WCK. He plans to get the sandwiches out on the very first flights out to Abaco Island, which is almost entirely under water right now. Once the sandwiches are packed, the kitchen volunteers will begin preparing hot meals in the morning. The sandwiches are just the beginning.
“Quite frankly, that’s what I’m going to keep doing, for the rest of my life,” Andrés emphasized.
“I don’t do this because it’s fun. I do this because I believe our expertise is needed,” he told Anderson Cooper after being questioned why the most famous chef in the world would fly into a disaster area. “It’s the role of every citizen to do every little bit to better the lives of others,” he responded, after an exasperated chuckle. “I’m blessed to have teams that are very committed to do this. This to me, is not my work. This is a passion. To provide meals to the few is great but I love to provide meals to the many.”
Before you donate any Advil to the Bahamas, espere.
“We saw it in Puerto Rico. Everybody is very generous and everybody starts sending things,” Andrés said, stressing the importance of following “the lead of the Bahamian Prime Minister.” He went on to recall “seeing an entire container of Advil pills. In Puerto Rico, there was so much Advil that they have enough Advil for the next hundred years. We need to make sure we follow the leadership of those who know best.” For now, we wait.
You can donate to the World Central Kitchen to ensure emergency food-relief efforts are available worldwide, no matter government response.