Chef José Andrés Has Served Nearly 1.5 Million Meals To Hungry Puerto Ricans
The Coliseo is the biggest concert hall in San Juan, Puerto Rico. But since Hurricane Maria devastated the island a month ago, it's become the center of a massive effort to feed tens of thousands left hungry by the storm an effort led by celebrity chef José Andrés.
"We're about to reach the million and a half [meals] served a vast majority of them hot meals," says Andrés, who is known for his upscale restaurants in Washington, D.C., and for canceling his plans to open one in Donald Trump's D.C. hotel.
Nearly 80 percent of Puerto Rico remains without electricity. In the Coliseo, Andrés oversees a massive makeshift kitchen. A few hundred volunteers prepare stews and sandwiches — 60,000 each day. Andrés calls it "one of the most effective sandwich lines made by volunteers in history I'm so proud of them."
Many of the meals will be loaded on trucks for delivery to remote regions of the island. "We have the food trucks that reach any area that sometimes have difficult access, one house here, one house there," Andrés says.
When asked why he decided to fly to San Juan on Sept. 25, just days after Maria struck, Andrés replies by paraphrasing the author John Steinbeck. "Steinbeck said very clearly ... "Where there is a fight so hungry people may eat, I will be there."
"I didn't see a plan and instead of planning and meeting, I began cooking and we began feeding," he says. Soon after Andrés arrived.
Despite such frustrations, Andrés remains indefatigable about continuing to churn out meals to help alleviate hunger in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.