By the end of September, chef José Andrés had arrived in Puerto Rico. His mission? Find and feed victims of Hurricane Maria, which had swept through the island, which also a U.S. territory, destroying the water supply, shutting down electricity, and cutting off food supplies. At that point, Andrés was seeking out hospitals and neighborhoods where he knew people were the most in need, at one time cooking up vats of paella that served at least 5,000 people. His extraordinary efforts have now truly earned him the title of the hardest working philanthropist in the restaurant industry: He’s served 1 million meals in Puerto Rico, more than the Red Cross.
According to his Twitter account, the relief effort, operated by Andrés’ non-profit hunger relief organization World Central Kitchen, took three weeks, and the help of 15 kitchens and more than 500 volunteers serving everything from his signature paella, to rice and even mac and cheese, to achieve that goal—part of their #chefsforpuertorico campaign, which encouraged Ricky Martin and Gloria Estefan join the chef in Puerto Rico.
The Red Cross is still doing work worthy of praise, even if they haven’t had the same tremendous impact as Andrés and his team: It has served around 54,000 meals and delivered more than 500,000 relief supplies.
Andrés, however, had the benefit of working with fellow chef José Enrique, who runs a restaurant in San Juan, as well as the use of the Coliseo de Puerto Rico, an indoor entertainment arena that he was able to convert into a kitchen, where around 60,000 meals are cooked every day. He also told the Chicago Tribune that he made friends with Puerto Rico’s Homeland Security department, which had been assisting in the distribution of meals.
Andrés, who also flew down to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, promises that wherever there are hungry people, he will be there to feed them.
Update 10/20: The Chamber Orchestra of Puerto Rico visited Andrés and his team in San Juan.