WASHINGTON - With all eyes on Florence and the areas affected by the hurricane, a celebrity chef is once again stepping up to the plate to help in the aftermath of another devastating storm.
José Andrés activated his team of cooks and volunteers and will be heading to North Carolina on Saturday.
People in the D.C. area know Andrés from his popular restaurants such as Jaleo, China Chilcano, Oyamel, Zaytinya, Fish and minibar. But he is also responsible for feeding hundreds of thousands of hungry Americans when disaster strikes.
Andrés’ non-profit organization World Central Kitchen is ready to open as many as five kitchens in the wake of Florence. On Twitter, Andrés posted photos of his people already in place in North Carolina working with agencies such as the American Red Cross.
He said it is often the first responders who need the most help in the beginning.
“National Guard, police – believe it or not, they are only obsessed with helping others and I think everybody forgets what are they going to eat,” he said.
Andrés has fed victims in the wake of many natural disasters over the years, including the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
Because of social media, his work in Puerto Rico last year after Hurricane Maria got global attention. He and about 20 cooks planned to be there for about a week. But they stayed for 11 months and amassed an army of 25,000 volunteers, including members of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard who were there. In the end, they served more than three million meals.
Andrés is out with a new book called We Fed an Island. In it, he said much of the federal response was held up with red tape, but his group was able to get things done faster.
We asked the chef about President Donald Trump's rejection of the death toll of nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
“This was not about President Trump,” said Andrés. “He didn't kill the 3,000 [people], but his lack of empathy probably did. Empathy is 51 percent of leadership and if you lack empathy, very much everything falls apart … I think by recognizing that more people died than the official number a year ago, [it will] probably will be the difference in hundreds or even more deaths. We were supposed to put more resources, quicker, faster, and recognize that what happened in Puerto Rico was one of the biggest tragedies – even way bigger than Katrina.”
Andrés wants the government to be more open to improvising and adapting to situations as needed to get help to the hardest hit areas.
He recently provided meals during wildfires in California and the volcanic eruption in Hawaii.
Andrés will be on the ground in North Carolina Saturday assessing the need there. He is also donating 100 percent of his net proceeds from the sale of his book to World Central Kitchen.