Restaurant News & Reviews

He fed millions in Puerto Rico. Now he’ll cook for thousands of unpaid federal workers.

José Andrés waves a small Puerto Rican flag after attending a conversation with Republican commentator Ana Navarro at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus in Downtown Miami on Monday, September 24, 2018.
José Andrés waves a small Puerto Rican flag after attending a conversation with Republican commentator Ana Navarro at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus in Downtown Miami on Monday, September 24, 2018. mocner@miamiherald.com

José Andrés has fed more than a million survivors of hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes. Now, he’s turning to the thousands of federal workers affected by the government shutdown.

The renowned chef, nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for feeding millions through his charity, World Central Kitchen, will set up a large-scale kitchen on Pennsylvania Avenue, serving hot meals to out-of-work federal workers and their families, starting Jan. 16.

“We believe no person should have to go through the pain of not knowing what to feed their children,” he said in a Twitter video filmed from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where his charity served more meals than FEMA after the 2017 hurricane and continues to feed hurricane survivors still living without electricity.

“World Central Kitchen is there to respond to any disaster to make sure that Americans and people around the world will not go one day without a plate of food,” he said. “Today we face another type of disaster emergency in the United States.”

Andrés says in the video he pointedly set up the kitchen at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, near the Navy Memorial, halfway between the White House and the U.S. Capitol. The emergency kitchen will open from 11 a.m. t0 6 p.m.

“I hope it will be a call to action to our senators and congressmen and especially President Trump,” he said. “We should always come together as ‘We the People,’ as Americans, bipartisan, all Americans.”

Andrés, a one-time Spanish immigrant who became a U.S. citizen, has been an advocate of immigrant rights and vocal critic of the president. He publicly sparred with Trump over the president’s immigration policies and pulled a planned restaurant out of one of Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotels. That led to a $10 million lawsuit that was eventually settled.

Meanwhile, his World Central Kitchen became a pop-up disaster relief organization. Working with local chefs, Andrés started makeshift kitchens around Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Andrés, who has two Miami restaurants, set up kitchens in North Carolina after a hurricane strike and in California after wildfires displaced thousands.

He considers the government shutdown another crisis, which affects potentially more than 800,000 federal workers. More than 300,000 missed their first paychecks last week.

“We’re going to be open for any federal family that needs food,” he said in the video message. “We will have food for you to eat and for you to take home.”

Miami Herald food editor Carlos Frías won the 2018 James Beard award for excellence in covering the food industry. A Miami native, he’s also the author of “Take Me With You: A Secret Search for Family in a Forbidden Cuba.”

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