Hurricane Dorian was the worst natural disaster to happen in the history of the Bahamas. The Category Five storm caused billions of dollars in damage to the islands, displaced thousands, and took the lives of 65 people. In the midst of tragedy and uncertainty, Chef José Andrés has used his love of cooking to unite and assist the country, serving up thousands of meals to those in need.
Lending A Helping Hand
Through his humanitarian relief nonprofit organization, World Central Kitchen, José and his team were able to distribute meals to those in the Bahamas. World Central Kitchen focuses on feeding those in need after natural disasters like Dorian. José and other workers actually pre-positioned themselves in the country’s capital of Nassau during the storm so they could be ready when it hit. “We are learning that pre-positioning yourself in a hurricane buys you precious time. You know, when – we’re in the business of feeding people after a hurricane,” the chef said in an interview with NPR. “Sometimes, in some parts, people obviously they can be OK one, two, three days later. But, for some people, sometimes three days is way too much. Some people don’t have any food at home or if they had, they lost it because of the hurricane.” World Central Kitchen also provided food for those in the Carolinas and Florida, which were also impacted by the storm. The efforts, however, were mainly focused on the Bahamas which took the biggest hit from Hurricane Dorian. Meals have ranged from vats of tuna salad to steamed mixed vegetables to even paella (a specialty dish from José’s native country, Spain). “We are cooking for the people, and plan on ramping that up even more and more,” said Zomi Frankcom, the nonprofit’s relief administration manager, in a video she posted from the Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport.
Highlighting The Problem
José and his team regularly used their time in the Bahamas to highlight the extensive damage in the area and the need for help. He also called for the U.S. Coast Guard to provide helicopters to deliver food from the U.S. to support the relief efforts of World Central Kitchen. In the midst of the storm, which hit the hardest on the Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, the organization had over 12 potential sites to help feed people. However, some of those sites were destroyed or underwater because of the storm. The team refused to let that stop them, creating makeshift outdoor kitchens so that those impacted could still receive a meal. José and World Central Kitchen also worked steadfastly with the Office of the Prime Minister of the Bahamas and Carnival Cruise lines, among others, to supply ingredients and transportation. José was also able to use one of his own kitchens, Fish by José Andrés, at Atlantis Bahamas in Nassau, in order to make meals with other workers.
Making A Difference
José first formed World Central Kitchen after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti (which the country is still recovering from). His goal was to provide healthy food to people in the midst of these terrible disasters. Since then, the organization has prepared meals in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Zambia, Peru, Cuba, Uganda, and Cambodia. Most recently, the nonprofit served those affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and the Camp Fire in California. José earned a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nomination from former Congressman John Delaney of Maryland for his efforts. Serving all of these places really came from on-the-job training and improvisation by using any space with electricity and water: churches, restaurants, food trucks, etc. “We don’t have any technique that is very difficult or very special. What we have is we have a lot of empathy,” the DC-based chef shared. That empathy truly makes all the difference.
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