The first planes of celebrity chef Ingrid Hoffmann’s rescue mission to the Bahamas are ready for takeoff Tuesday afternoon.
“We have three caravans departing with first responders and Seal Teams with tents, inflatable boats with on board engines,” Hoffmann said. “The idea is that they will get via water some injured people, bring them to my air ambulances and then we will deploy them out. That is today’s mission.”
It sounds like a movie, but this isn’t the Miami chef’s first time coordinating rescue efforts. In 2017, the “Simply Delicioso” Food Network star coordinated a flight with 1,800 pounds of food to the Houston suburb of Pearland to help a chef who was cooking for those devastated by Hurricane Harvey. The plane came back full of rescued Houston-area pets in need of a forever home.
“When you have the ability to actually do that, how can you sit idle?” she said.
Hoffmann isn’t the only celebrity chef to coordinate a relief mission to the Bahamas this week. José Andrés traveled with his World Central Kitchen’s “Chef Relief Team” to bring food and water.
Hoffmann said her team got the OK Monday night to land in Sandy Point, which she says is not underwater.
SLS hotels have also agreed to give free rooms to the crew and Acute Air and Aitheras Aviation Group, a Fort Lauderdale-based company, has agreed to donate air ambulances, pilots and medics to help Hoffmann with the mission. Hoffmann says each plane generally costs about $3,000 and considered first responders.
“Our primary goal for this mission is to bring the needed equipment and supplies to the island as well as transporting the sick and injured and getting them the care they need,” Courtney Preston, the company’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We believe that helping those in their hour of need is the right and humane thing to do. We are committed to our mission in providing the highest standard in medical care and assistance to anyone in need, at anytime anywhere within the four corners of the globe.”
The company also assisted Hoffmann in 2017 with her Puerto Rico relief efforts after Hurricane Maria struck the island. During her rescue efforts, she set up a provisional kitchen and says her team helped rescue 2,000 people, according to her GoFundMe page. One of her first rescues was a cancer patient whose treatment was interrupted because of the disaster. She took him to the United States to continue treatment. He’s now cancer-free, she said.
The plan is for the rescue crew to take those who need medical attention to the air ambulances, which will then fly them to a Nassau hospital. If the hospital becomes overcrowded, Hoffmann plans to take those who are injured to a hospital in Miami.
But, to do all this, Hoffmann needs gas money.
Donating items like generators, chain saws and first-aid kits are important but if “we don’t first save lives then none of that stuff” will matter, she said.
“Air ambulances is where we need the money at and we can’t just rely on the Coast Guard and the Army,” Hoffmann said. “There won’t be enough air ambulances in the air to save these people.”
The fuel to leave Nassau to Miami is more expensive, she said and costs about $2,500 to do a run. After the fifth flight, the company will need her to pay for the fuel. So, she set up a GoFundMe page Monday.
Her goal is to raise $30,000. As of Tuesday afternoon, the page had raised $12,297.
She’s working to get the fuel at cost and said the more trips the air ambulances make, the more people they can save. She’s coordinating with the nonprofit HeadKnowles and is filling the planes with donated equipment. The air ambulances are expected to depart from Miami Executive Airport on Tuesday afternoon.
If she’s able to a create a staging area in Nassau, she will then fly to assist in the area.
“It’s nerve-wracking. Everything changes by the hour,” she said. “The impact that small people like myself are able to do is truly amazing.”