After a long month of hard work, Chef José Andrés is finally winding down his Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
The cooking operation working out of San Juan’s Coliseo de Puerto Rico— organized by the Spanish-American chef’s nonprofit, World Central Kitchens— is shutting down Thursday, as reported by the “New York Times.”
A team of almost 500 volunteers would prepare as much as 30,000 ham and cheese sandwiches per day in makeshift kitchens at the island’s largest stadium, which served as the latest headquarters of the relief efforts.
Volunteers would also cook on giant paella pans every morning to serve hungry Puerto Ricans full plates of rice and sausage. The team effort included local pastors, cooking students, food-truck drivers, and some of Chef Andrés’ own chef staff that was flown down to help with the cooking operations.
According to the “New York Times,” the team served close to two million meals and sandwiches reaching all 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico. At some point, the cost of the operation a day amounted to about $400,000 “including transportation and hotel costs for chefs and staff members he flew in from some of the 27 restaurants in his company, Think Food Group.”
It’s not all over, though.
Now that there is plenty of cold food in the island, the network José Andrés is leaving behind will still provide hot meals for those who need it the most, like the elderly, sick and individuals located in remote places.
FEMA has officially taken over and has told Chef Andrés that it has the situation handled.
Part of the reason Andrés is pulling back is also because the island needs to be able to sustain itself and now that many grocery stores have opened for business and federal help is active on the ground, this is the perfect opportunity for Puerto Ricans to do just that.
“An NGO has no right taking money away from business,” Chef Andrés told the “New York Times.”