José Andrés, the celebrity chef who tore open his white chef’s coat at February’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival to reveal a T-shirt reading, “I am an immigrant,” has stationed himself in Puerto Rico feeding thousands after Hurricane Maria.
Andrés, the Spanish chef behind Brickell’s Bazaar Mar restaurant, among others, was one of the first responders to Puerto Rico, along with his crew from World Central Kitchen in Washington, the Washington Post reported. He’s also went to Houston and Haiti after natural disasters hit those two places.
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His mission in Puerto Rico, an island stripped of food, water and electricity after Hurricane Maria, is to feed the countless stranded residents who are struggling to find food and water, even if he has to improvise.
President Donald Trump, who is not due to arrive at the U.S. territory until Tuesday, lashed out at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz on Saturday after she begged for help and accused his administration of “killing us with the inefficiency” in its response after Hurricane Maria. “They want everything done for them,” Trump tweeted from his New Jersey golf resort.
Andrés, 48, who lives in the Washington area and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2013, and his crew have been feeding about 5,000 people a day in San Juan. They were up to about 15,000 meals by the weekend, the Post reported. After Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, his World Central Kitchen group served 20,000 meals to storm victims.
While communication remains difficult, Andrés has managed to keep international attention on the island through a series of tweets and videos on Twitter and his Facebook page.
“It can be overwhelming here in #PuertoRico but I believe every little bit helps,” he tweeted Friday night.
Under the hashtag #ChefsForPuertoRico, Andrés has been soliciting donations and volunteers to help feed a population that suffered through two hurricanes. Hurricane Irma grazed the island in early September and two weeks later, Maria, a Category 4 colossus, slammed the island, wiping out its entire power grid. Maria was the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years.
Andrés’ Mi Casa restaurant in Dorado, just west of San Juan, suffered storm damage and has been closed. So he tapped fellow chef José Enrique, whose eponymous restaurant in the Santurce district of San Juan has been serving as one of the bases for meal preparation. Food trucks have been distributing stews, sandwiches, paella and pastelon to hospitals, senior homes and throughout battered neighborhoods.
When he, along with his crew, hit the 8,000 served mark this week, he also shared a video. “A great day at Santurce,” he posted.
He told the Washington Post he hoped to expand his relief operations to Vieques, a small island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico that has been cut off from all communications and supplies since Maria hit on Sept. 20.
“We have to be realistic about what we can do,” Andrés said. He’s extending his stay in Puerto Rico for another week. “I cannot leave.”
Andrés is not alone. Many others are helping out in Puerto Rico. Among them:
▪ The five former U.S. living presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have created the One America Appeal fund-raising campaign, launching it with a website to help with relief efforts in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
They created the website oneamericaappeal.org after Hurricane Harvey swept through Texas.
“Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have brought terrible devastation— but also brought out the best in humanity. As former presidents, we wanted to come together to help our fellow citizens in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean as they recover and rebuild,” the website reads.
▪ Orlando Bravo, a Puerto Rican businessman and investor living in California, chartered planes that left Fort Lauderdale airport Saturday morning bound for Puerto Rico with supplies. He said he would donate $10 million to Puerto Rico through his Bravo Family Foundation. “Through efficient use of capital, our supply chain expertise and our knowledge of local communities in Puerto Rico where my family grew up, we believe we can make a big impact,” Bravo said in a statement.
“There will hopefully be significant federal aid coming to the island. But centralized efforts, no matter how large and well-coordinated, still leave gaps,” he added.
▪ Miami Commissioner Ken Russell’s former chief of staff Eleazor Melendez, now political director for the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, has led grassroots efforts in the county to gather supplies to send to Puerto Rico.
On Friday, Melendez posted on Facebook: “Just heard from the mayor of Quebradillas. He’s deeply feeling the pain of his people. His voice was sunken, nervous, nearly broken. Situation sounds dire in his town. People are dying for lack of oxygen tanks and can’t get through impassable roads. We’re working on sending 20 people with chainsaws and medical supplies — luxury commodities in Puerto Rico right now — to help out.”
“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, of Puerto Rican heritage, urged his 1.7 million Twitter followers to support the Hispanic Federation with its relief efforts. On Saturday he took to Twitter to blast Trump’s comments about the San Juan mayor.
▪ Americares airlifted more than $3 million in medicines for hospitals and health centers in Puerto Rico and Dominica. The health-focused relief and development organization supplied seven tons of medicine, including antibiotics, wound-care supplies, intravenous fluids, mental health medications and chronic disease treatments.
▪ The 1,000-bed U.S. Navy Comfort hospital ship left its Virginia base Friday with 522 medical personnel to bring help, including units of blood and urgently needed personnel to PuertoRico, CBS News reported.
▪ DHL flew 250,000 pounds of relief supplies to San Juan this week. FedEx, working with the American Red Cross and other groups, has sent two daily relief flights since the San Juan airport opened.
▪ Miami Dade College is offering tuition aid to displaced students from Puerto Rico by waiving out of state fees, which are nearly four times the cost of in-state tuition. Other schools like Broward College, Florida International University and St. Thomas University have also followed Gov. Rick Scott’s recommendation to waive the out-of-state fees. An influx of Puerto Rican students is expected in South Florida and the Orlando area.
▪ Miami-Dade police set up a collection site at its Kendall district station at 7707 SW 117th Ave. to gather goods to ship to Puerto Rico.
▪ Royal Caribbean International canceled Saturday’s voyage on Adventure of the Seas, which was scheduled to leave from San Juan on a seven-night itinerary, and instead used the ship for rescue and humanitarian efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Miami-based cruise line picked up 1,700 evacuees, some of them Royal Caribbean employees and their families, on Wednesday in San Juan.
▪ REVA, a medical transport company with a fleet of 17 medically configured aircraft, flew three team members from its Fort Lauderdale base to San Juan Saturday to distribute supplies including canned foods, sports drinks, water, diapers, baby formula and soap.
▪ Songs in the key of help: On Oct. 5, Churchill’s Pub at 5501 NE Second Ave. in Miami, hosts its Rock You Like a Hurricane benefit concert for Puerto Rico with Haochi, The State Of, Monterrey, Union and others.
Also, local South Florida musicians, including Jim Camacho and Elsten Torres, will perform at a disaster relief benefit concert for the American Red Cross to help people in Puerto Rico, Mexico and other areas that have endured recent natural disasters on Oct. 11 at Hoy Como Ayer in Miami.
▪ Department of Homeland Security special agents arrived in Christiansted, St. Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Friday aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser to deliver relief supplies and provide security to the U.S. territory. The agents arrived on the 154-foot cutter after leaving San Juan with bottled water, electrical cords, cots and a tent.
▪ OneBlood, a Florida not-for-profit with a center in Fort Lauderdale, sent several shipments of blood to Puerto Rico with plans to send more in tandem with the American Red Cross, the Blood Centers of America and America’s Blood Centers.
▪ Food For The Poor, based in Coconut Creek, will send four pallets of critical medical supplies such as pain relievers, antibiotics, wound care kits, along with disaster and personal hygiene kits via airfreight to Puerto Rico on Oct. 4, with the assistance of Kansas-based partner Heart-to-Heart International.