Traditional recipes

FEMA Contractor Given $156 Million for 30 Million Meals in Wake of Hurricane Maria Delivered Only 50,000

FEMA Contractor Given $156 Million for 30 Million Meals in Wake of Hurricane Maria Delivered Only 50,000

Although Hurricane Maria touched down in late September of 2017, Puerto Ricans are still devastated from a lack of proper aid and food assistance. FEMA appointed Atlanta entrepreneur and self-described “government contractor” Tiffany Brown to deliver thirty million meals to Puerto Rico by Oct. And according to TKTK, out of the 18.5 million meals she was supposed to deliver to the island, her company had only distributed 50,000.

Brown, who has no experience with large-scale disaster relief and as the New York Times as reported, also has at least five cancelled government contracts in her past (four of which involve failure to deliver meals to the Federal Prison System), was appointed to send thirty million self-heating meals to the island, where at the time around 1 million people lacked running water and around 3 million people were without power.

As the owner and only employee of her company Tribute Contracting LLC, Brown hired a wedding caterer to freeze-dry wild mushrooms, rice, chicken and rice, and vegetable soup; as well as a nonprofit in Texas to ship food aid overseas.

And to add insult to injury, the food Tribute did send had also been packaged separately from its heating pouches, despite FEMA’s requirements that the meals be self-heating. Carolyn Ward, the FEMA contracting officer who had handled Brown’s agreement, which was reportedly one of its largest food contracts, called the un-met goal a “logistical nightmare.”

FEMA terminated their contract with Tribute over the late delivery. On Dec. 22, Brown filed an appeal claiming that she was not dismissed over late delivery, but instead of her separate packaging of heaters and meals. Brown alleges that FEMA never said the meals and heaters needed to be packaged together. Brown has also claimed that her subcontractors are threatening to sue for breach of contract, and is seeking a settlement of at least $70 million.

The Daily Meal has reached out to FEMA and Tribute Contracting LLC for comment.

Luckily, Puerto Rico received a ton of help from chef José Andrés, who stayed on the island to feed more than 3 million meals to displaced Puerto Ricans. That’s just one of the 18 reasons why José Andrés is the hero we need.


José Andrés, the Accidental Humanitarian

As he sits in the dining room of the newly opened outpost of his much lauded Mediterranean eatery Zaytinya in a suburb of Dallas, the ever-racing mind of chef José Andrés is on Puerto Rico. “Puerto Rico is going to be okay,” Andrés says, “because they’re going to come away with a strong belief that they can overcome big obstacles.”

Andrés, of course, is referring to the island’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a storyline he’s become increasingly intertwined with as Puerto Rico works its way back toward normalcy. Since the hurricane hit in September, Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen have been on the front lines of global disaster relief.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, after getting a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by an earthquake in Haiti. In the ensuing years, Andrés has mobilized the organization to provide professional education to chefs in countries across the globe, build kitchens at underfunded schools, and teach food safety. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, he caught a flight to Dallas and drove the 250 miles to Space City to assist local chefs in a hunger relief effort that churned out tens of thousands of meals in the days following the storm.

Later, Andrés went to feed people in Florida after Hurricane Irma, and after the wildfires raged through the Napa Valley. But his most concentrated effort has been in Puerto Rico, where World Central Kitchen served as the primary food source for the island, churning out 3.5 million meals to date — with a full-time staff of just three people. (And that 3.5 million number is a low estimate, one that doesn’t count the 250,000 pounds of food Andrés brought when he landed.) While Andrés’s organization was doing this work, a single contractor was tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with getting 30 million meals to Puerto Rico, and granted a $156 million contract to get it done. Ultimately, that contractor only delivered 50,000 meals after creating a “logistical nightmare,” according to the New York Times.

In the midst of that chaos remains Andrés, whose background is in running restaurants, not providing large-scale disaster relief. Eater sat down with the chef to talk about Puerto Rico, the future of the island, and what’s next for the World Central Kitchen.

Is it still a struggle to get things in and out of Puerto Rico?

The great lesson of Puerto Rico is that the private sector has worked very well. I’m not an expert. but I saw firsthand FEMA, the military, the private sector working well. It took longer than some people liked, but the fuel and distance situation resolved quickly and fairly well.

If I was a water expert, I’d have ideas on what I would do differently. I would put in more infrastructure I would bring generators quicker. Water for me was one of the top problems on the island, so I would put more focus on bigger projects instead of trying to bring in bottles of water. The Pepsi plant and the beer plants activated, but mainly it was the Coke plant that was producing water and there were not enough hours in the day to produce more. People were afraid of running out. I would put more emphasis on disaster communication and in the water infrastructure on the island. That should have been resolved more quickly.

Talk about the logistics on the ground: How did the World Central Kitchen get food to so many people?

We opened an account, got cash, [but] some organizations were having processing problems with cards because there was no cell signal. The moment you move from San Juan, there was zero cell service: People couldn’t use food stamps, people couldn’t call to place orders, delivering food was impossible. Fresh food was impossible because there was no fuel for the generators. In the end, we placed our orders. We went by Sam’s Club. I felt guilty because Walmart gave us some money, they were very generous early on, but [a stipulation existed where we couldn’t spend it in any Walmart-owned stores]. But the only places where we didn’t have to wait in line was Sam’s Club. It was real money, and we had to spend it. We were like, “What the fuck, they can tell us this, but we need cheese and we need ham, and they have cheese and ham.”

How do you feel about the future of Puerto Rico?

I think Puerto Rico is going to have a great future. The people of Puerto Rico: It’s unbelievable how patient, how nice they were to each other, how supportive. We would go to communities and they would tell us, “We are okay, help these people in the mountains because nobody has helped them yet.” I’ve learned in my life [after lots of disaster relief experience], people more often than not don’t want our pity. They want our respect. They don’t want to take more than they need.

But we need to make it easier on Puerto Rico. We talk about colonies — I come from Spain, I know colonies. It’s unfair that we criticize Puerto Rico for being in debt but we have other states in America that are in debt too. They cannot compete in a free market because only American companies can deliver to them. If Puerto Rico is America — and I believe it is America and Puerto Ricans are Americans — this amounts to economic discrimination, and that’s unfair. We should not treat Puerto Rico any different than Hawaiʻi.

If there’s a natural disaster tomorrow, is WCK able to mobilize and go to that place immediately?

During the hurricane, we opened a school in Haiti, we had three chefs from the WCK chefs program teaching in Nicaragua. WCK only technically has three people on payroll. And none of them were day-to-day in Puerto Rico, because they had other projects. With three people on payroll, we’ve done 3.5 million meals. That’s not bad. The big thing is that we’ve got a lot of support, people are now looking at us.

When the next natural disaster happens, wherever that is, will World Central Kitchen be there?

Some days I wake up in the morning and [dream] I’m announcing that I’m retiring World Central Kitchen from relief, because we were not a relief organization. We were created because of what I saw in Haiti after the earthquake, but it was more long-term help than relief. You realize that the local organizations, the ones already on the ground, are more qualified to help because they’re there. They are the most capable ones.

In Puerto Rico one of the things I did was fly in some of my chefs from my company and we did an assessment, like in Houston. I needed a lot of chefs. I called [food service companies] Compass and Bon Appetit, and they were able to send me 12 chefs from the Compass network, all experts on volume. They came within 48 hours.

The teams allowed us to go from one restaurant to the next. At one point we had 21 kitchens going at the same time. On the big days, we reached 175,000 meals in one day. At one point we were doing 75,000 meals a day [just] from the main kitchen. We had three lines for sandwiches, three lines for hot food, and we maintained over 120,000 meals for a few weeks.

Did you see yourself as a humanitarian before Haiti? Do you now?

There is a quote: “Wherever there is a fight where hungry people will need to eat, I will be there.” I don’t know what I was drinking when I read that phase, but if one day I ever get a tattoo, it would probably be that phrase. I’ll do it on my forehead.

I like that phrase a lot. I’m going through a reckoning, not with who I am, but what I do. I am my wife, I am my daughters, I am my cooks, I am my chefs, I am my community. I think everybody should be saying “I am them.”

I am a pragmatic capitalist. I want to do well, but make sure that it is not at the expense of everyone else. I’m still going through the process of making that work. I want to believe that the guy who works with us has a good living. I want to believe that the people who came to you working as a dishwasher can become a head chef, I have a few of those. I have women that are sous chefs and they don’t want to be head chefs because they don’t want to. Because for them, it’s the right balance of family and work.

How can people like you who are in positions of power make the industry — and the kitchen — more friendly to women who want to be head chefs?

I know the president has been talking about that, but for me, with three daughters, I’m not going to barricade myself behind my daughters, but I want for them the moon and then some more. I’m very biased in that respect, but how to do it? I’m a guy that believes that we need to be providing the same opportunities to everybody. But humanity has always relied on women to be the ones who have the babies, that’s not something we can change. At least not yet. But then that follows everything else, and makes everything more difficult in the work environment for women.

Nobody’s perfect. This Christmas, in my company speech, I told them I knew these last four months had been tough for me and I raised my voice more than necessary. I told them when they see me doing it, to shout me down. I make sure that nobody crosses the line. If we all follow the rules of engagement, we can disagree socially, we can disagree politically, we can disagree with so many things.

We are as generous as the restaurant industry can be. We have full paid maternity leave, paternity leave for the fathers. It’s not huge, but some places don’t even offer it. On why there aren’t enough women as head chefs, [we should ask ourselves]: Are we doing enough? The kitchen is a hard place. Do we need to look at ways to make it more feasible and doable for women? Absolutely.

I see more younger women in kitchens now than I have ever before. The industry is changing. But I’m not the expert. We need to ask women what happens and what we can do to make the industry better for them. My CEO, for example, her husband is the one who takes care of the children. We should be asking my CEO those questions, not me. What’s happening now in the food industry with sexual harassment, you have more men in positions of power and they’re using it the wrong way. That’s every profession, every part of humanity, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Would you ever consider running for office?

I can’t run for office! I left school when I was 14, I never graduated from anything. But I’m. no. Not everybody can lead. I see a lot of leaders out there. The young girl who helps an old woman walk with her farmers market shopping across the street, that’s a leader. There’s many leaders. But I think what we’re seeing is that people are looking for leaders who are trustworthy.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Amy McCarthy is editor of Eater Dallas and Eater Houston.


José Andrés, the Accidental Humanitarian

As he sits in the dining room of the newly opened outpost of his much lauded Mediterranean eatery Zaytinya in a suburb of Dallas, the ever-racing mind of chef José Andrés is on Puerto Rico. “Puerto Rico is going to be okay,” Andrés says, “because they’re going to come away with a strong belief that they can overcome big obstacles.”

Andrés, of course, is referring to the island’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a storyline he’s become increasingly intertwined with as Puerto Rico works its way back toward normalcy. Since the hurricane hit in September, Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen have been on the front lines of global disaster relief.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, after getting a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by an earthquake in Haiti. In the ensuing years, Andrés has mobilized the organization to provide professional education to chefs in countries across the globe, build kitchens at underfunded schools, and teach food safety. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, he caught a flight to Dallas and drove the 250 miles to Space City to assist local chefs in a hunger relief effort that churned out tens of thousands of meals in the days following the storm.

Later, Andrés went to feed people in Florida after Hurricane Irma, and after the wildfires raged through the Napa Valley. But his most concentrated effort has been in Puerto Rico, where World Central Kitchen served as the primary food source for the island, churning out 3.5 million meals to date — with a full-time staff of just three people. (And that 3.5 million number is a low estimate, one that doesn’t count the 250,000 pounds of food Andrés brought when he landed.) While Andrés’s organization was doing this work, a single contractor was tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with getting 30 million meals to Puerto Rico, and granted a $156 million contract to get it done. Ultimately, that contractor only delivered 50,000 meals after creating a “logistical nightmare,” according to the New York Times.

In the midst of that chaos remains Andrés, whose background is in running restaurants, not providing large-scale disaster relief. Eater sat down with the chef to talk about Puerto Rico, the future of the island, and what’s next for the World Central Kitchen.

Is it still a struggle to get things in and out of Puerto Rico?

The great lesson of Puerto Rico is that the private sector has worked very well. I’m not an expert. but I saw firsthand FEMA, the military, the private sector working well. It took longer than some people liked, but the fuel and distance situation resolved quickly and fairly well.

If I was a water expert, I’d have ideas on what I would do differently. I would put in more infrastructure I would bring generators quicker. Water for me was one of the top problems on the island, so I would put more focus on bigger projects instead of trying to bring in bottles of water. The Pepsi plant and the beer plants activated, but mainly it was the Coke plant that was producing water and there were not enough hours in the day to produce more. People were afraid of running out. I would put more emphasis on disaster communication and in the water infrastructure on the island. That should have been resolved more quickly.

Talk about the logistics on the ground: How did the World Central Kitchen get food to so many people?

We opened an account, got cash, [but] some organizations were having processing problems with cards because there was no cell signal. The moment you move from San Juan, there was zero cell service: People couldn’t use food stamps, people couldn’t call to place orders, delivering food was impossible. Fresh food was impossible because there was no fuel for the generators. In the end, we placed our orders. We went by Sam’s Club. I felt guilty because Walmart gave us some money, they were very generous early on, but [a stipulation existed where we couldn’t spend it in any Walmart-owned stores]. But the only places where we didn’t have to wait in line was Sam’s Club. It was real money, and we had to spend it. We were like, “What the fuck, they can tell us this, but we need cheese and we need ham, and they have cheese and ham.”

How do you feel about the future of Puerto Rico?

I think Puerto Rico is going to have a great future. The people of Puerto Rico: It’s unbelievable how patient, how nice they were to each other, how supportive. We would go to communities and they would tell us, “We are okay, help these people in the mountains because nobody has helped them yet.” I’ve learned in my life [after lots of disaster relief experience], people more often than not don’t want our pity. They want our respect. They don’t want to take more than they need.

But we need to make it easier on Puerto Rico. We talk about colonies — I come from Spain, I know colonies. It’s unfair that we criticize Puerto Rico for being in debt but we have other states in America that are in debt too. They cannot compete in a free market because only American companies can deliver to them. If Puerto Rico is America — and I believe it is America and Puerto Ricans are Americans — this amounts to economic discrimination, and that’s unfair. We should not treat Puerto Rico any different than Hawaiʻi.

If there’s a natural disaster tomorrow, is WCK able to mobilize and go to that place immediately?

During the hurricane, we opened a school in Haiti, we had three chefs from the WCK chefs program teaching in Nicaragua. WCK only technically has three people on payroll. And none of them were day-to-day in Puerto Rico, because they had other projects. With three people on payroll, we’ve done 3.5 million meals. That’s not bad. The big thing is that we’ve got a lot of support, people are now looking at us.

When the next natural disaster happens, wherever that is, will World Central Kitchen be there?

Some days I wake up in the morning and [dream] I’m announcing that I’m retiring World Central Kitchen from relief, because we were not a relief organization. We were created because of what I saw in Haiti after the earthquake, but it was more long-term help than relief. You realize that the local organizations, the ones already on the ground, are more qualified to help because they’re there. They are the most capable ones.

In Puerto Rico one of the things I did was fly in some of my chefs from my company and we did an assessment, like in Houston. I needed a lot of chefs. I called [food service companies] Compass and Bon Appetit, and they were able to send me 12 chefs from the Compass network, all experts on volume. They came within 48 hours.

The teams allowed us to go from one restaurant to the next. At one point we had 21 kitchens going at the same time. On the big days, we reached 175,000 meals in one day. At one point we were doing 75,000 meals a day [just] from the main kitchen. We had three lines for sandwiches, three lines for hot food, and we maintained over 120,000 meals for a few weeks.

Did you see yourself as a humanitarian before Haiti? Do you now?

There is a quote: “Wherever there is a fight where hungry people will need to eat, I will be there.” I don’t know what I was drinking when I read that phase, but if one day I ever get a tattoo, it would probably be that phrase. I’ll do it on my forehead.

I like that phrase a lot. I’m going through a reckoning, not with who I am, but what I do. I am my wife, I am my daughters, I am my cooks, I am my chefs, I am my community. I think everybody should be saying “I am them.”

I am a pragmatic capitalist. I want to do well, but make sure that it is not at the expense of everyone else. I’m still going through the process of making that work. I want to believe that the guy who works with us has a good living. I want to believe that the people who came to you working as a dishwasher can become a head chef, I have a few of those. I have women that are sous chefs and they don’t want to be head chefs because they don’t want to. Because for them, it’s the right balance of family and work.

How can people like you who are in positions of power make the industry — and the kitchen — more friendly to women who want to be head chefs?

I know the president has been talking about that, but for me, with three daughters, I’m not going to barricade myself behind my daughters, but I want for them the moon and then some more. I’m very biased in that respect, but how to do it? I’m a guy that believes that we need to be providing the same opportunities to everybody. But humanity has always relied on women to be the ones who have the babies, that’s not something we can change. At least not yet. But then that follows everything else, and makes everything more difficult in the work environment for women.

Nobody’s perfect. This Christmas, in my company speech, I told them I knew these last four months had been tough for me and I raised my voice more than necessary. I told them when they see me doing it, to shout me down. I make sure that nobody crosses the line. If we all follow the rules of engagement, we can disagree socially, we can disagree politically, we can disagree with so many things.

We are as generous as the restaurant industry can be. We have full paid maternity leave, paternity leave for the fathers. It’s not huge, but some places don’t even offer it. On why there aren’t enough women as head chefs, [we should ask ourselves]: Are we doing enough? The kitchen is a hard place. Do we need to look at ways to make it more feasible and doable for women? Absolutely.

I see more younger women in kitchens now than I have ever before. The industry is changing. But I’m not the expert. We need to ask women what happens and what we can do to make the industry better for them. My CEO, for example, her husband is the one who takes care of the children. We should be asking my CEO those questions, not me. What’s happening now in the food industry with sexual harassment, you have more men in positions of power and they’re using it the wrong way. That’s every profession, every part of humanity, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Would you ever consider running for office?

I can’t run for office! I left school when I was 14, I never graduated from anything. But I’m. no. Not everybody can lead. I see a lot of leaders out there. The young girl who helps an old woman walk with her farmers market shopping across the street, that’s a leader. There’s many leaders. But I think what we’re seeing is that people are looking for leaders who are trustworthy.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Amy McCarthy is editor of Eater Dallas and Eater Houston.


José Andrés, the Accidental Humanitarian

As he sits in the dining room of the newly opened outpost of his much lauded Mediterranean eatery Zaytinya in a suburb of Dallas, the ever-racing mind of chef José Andrés is on Puerto Rico. “Puerto Rico is going to be okay,” Andrés says, “because they’re going to come away with a strong belief that they can overcome big obstacles.”

Andrés, of course, is referring to the island’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a storyline he’s become increasingly intertwined with as Puerto Rico works its way back toward normalcy. Since the hurricane hit in September, Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen have been on the front lines of global disaster relief.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, after getting a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by an earthquake in Haiti. In the ensuing years, Andrés has mobilized the organization to provide professional education to chefs in countries across the globe, build kitchens at underfunded schools, and teach food safety. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, he caught a flight to Dallas and drove the 250 miles to Space City to assist local chefs in a hunger relief effort that churned out tens of thousands of meals in the days following the storm.

Later, Andrés went to feed people in Florida after Hurricane Irma, and after the wildfires raged through the Napa Valley. But his most concentrated effort has been in Puerto Rico, where World Central Kitchen served as the primary food source for the island, churning out 3.5 million meals to date — with a full-time staff of just three people. (And that 3.5 million number is a low estimate, one that doesn’t count the 250,000 pounds of food Andrés brought when he landed.) While Andrés’s organization was doing this work, a single contractor was tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with getting 30 million meals to Puerto Rico, and granted a $156 million contract to get it done. Ultimately, that contractor only delivered 50,000 meals after creating a “logistical nightmare,” according to the New York Times.

In the midst of that chaos remains Andrés, whose background is in running restaurants, not providing large-scale disaster relief. Eater sat down with the chef to talk about Puerto Rico, the future of the island, and what’s next for the World Central Kitchen.

Is it still a struggle to get things in and out of Puerto Rico?

The great lesson of Puerto Rico is that the private sector has worked very well. I’m not an expert. but I saw firsthand FEMA, the military, the private sector working well. It took longer than some people liked, but the fuel and distance situation resolved quickly and fairly well.

If I was a water expert, I’d have ideas on what I would do differently. I would put in more infrastructure I would bring generators quicker. Water for me was one of the top problems on the island, so I would put more focus on bigger projects instead of trying to bring in bottles of water. The Pepsi plant and the beer plants activated, but mainly it was the Coke plant that was producing water and there were not enough hours in the day to produce more. People were afraid of running out. I would put more emphasis on disaster communication and in the water infrastructure on the island. That should have been resolved more quickly.

Talk about the logistics on the ground: How did the World Central Kitchen get food to so many people?

We opened an account, got cash, [but] some organizations were having processing problems with cards because there was no cell signal. The moment you move from San Juan, there was zero cell service: People couldn’t use food stamps, people couldn’t call to place orders, delivering food was impossible. Fresh food was impossible because there was no fuel for the generators. In the end, we placed our orders. We went by Sam’s Club. I felt guilty because Walmart gave us some money, they were very generous early on, but [a stipulation existed where we couldn’t spend it in any Walmart-owned stores]. But the only places where we didn’t have to wait in line was Sam’s Club. It was real money, and we had to spend it. We were like, “What the fuck, they can tell us this, but we need cheese and we need ham, and they have cheese and ham.”

How do you feel about the future of Puerto Rico?

I think Puerto Rico is going to have a great future. The people of Puerto Rico: It’s unbelievable how patient, how nice they were to each other, how supportive. We would go to communities and they would tell us, “We are okay, help these people in the mountains because nobody has helped them yet.” I’ve learned in my life [after lots of disaster relief experience], people more often than not don’t want our pity. They want our respect. They don’t want to take more than they need.

But we need to make it easier on Puerto Rico. We talk about colonies — I come from Spain, I know colonies. It’s unfair that we criticize Puerto Rico for being in debt but we have other states in America that are in debt too. They cannot compete in a free market because only American companies can deliver to them. If Puerto Rico is America — and I believe it is America and Puerto Ricans are Americans — this amounts to economic discrimination, and that’s unfair. We should not treat Puerto Rico any different than Hawaiʻi.

If there’s a natural disaster tomorrow, is WCK able to mobilize and go to that place immediately?

During the hurricane, we opened a school in Haiti, we had three chefs from the WCK chefs program teaching in Nicaragua. WCK only technically has three people on payroll. And none of them were day-to-day in Puerto Rico, because they had other projects. With three people on payroll, we’ve done 3.5 million meals. That’s not bad. The big thing is that we’ve got a lot of support, people are now looking at us.

When the next natural disaster happens, wherever that is, will World Central Kitchen be there?

Some days I wake up in the morning and [dream] I’m announcing that I’m retiring World Central Kitchen from relief, because we were not a relief organization. We were created because of what I saw in Haiti after the earthquake, but it was more long-term help than relief. You realize that the local organizations, the ones already on the ground, are more qualified to help because they’re there. They are the most capable ones.

In Puerto Rico one of the things I did was fly in some of my chefs from my company and we did an assessment, like in Houston. I needed a lot of chefs. I called [food service companies] Compass and Bon Appetit, and they were able to send me 12 chefs from the Compass network, all experts on volume. They came within 48 hours.

The teams allowed us to go from one restaurant to the next. At one point we had 21 kitchens going at the same time. On the big days, we reached 175,000 meals in one day. At one point we were doing 75,000 meals a day [just] from the main kitchen. We had three lines for sandwiches, three lines for hot food, and we maintained over 120,000 meals for a few weeks.

Did you see yourself as a humanitarian before Haiti? Do you now?

There is a quote: “Wherever there is a fight where hungry people will need to eat, I will be there.” I don’t know what I was drinking when I read that phase, but if one day I ever get a tattoo, it would probably be that phrase. I’ll do it on my forehead.

I like that phrase a lot. I’m going through a reckoning, not with who I am, but what I do. I am my wife, I am my daughters, I am my cooks, I am my chefs, I am my community. I think everybody should be saying “I am them.”

I am a pragmatic capitalist. I want to do well, but make sure that it is not at the expense of everyone else. I’m still going through the process of making that work. I want to believe that the guy who works with us has a good living. I want to believe that the people who came to you working as a dishwasher can become a head chef, I have a few of those. I have women that are sous chefs and they don’t want to be head chefs because they don’t want to. Because for them, it’s the right balance of family and work.

How can people like you who are in positions of power make the industry — and the kitchen — more friendly to women who want to be head chefs?

I know the president has been talking about that, but for me, with three daughters, I’m not going to barricade myself behind my daughters, but I want for them the moon and then some more. I’m very biased in that respect, but how to do it? I’m a guy that believes that we need to be providing the same opportunities to everybody. But humanity has always relied on women to be the ones who have the babies, that’s not something we can change. At least not yet. But then that follows everything else, and makes everything more difficult in the work environment for women.

Nobody’s perfect. This Christmas, in my company speech, I told them I knew these last four months had been tough for me and I raised my voice more than necessary. I told them when they see me doing it, to shout me down. I make sure that nobody crosses the line. If we all follow the rules of engagement, we can disagree socially, we can disagree politically, we can disagree with so many things.

We are as generous as the restaurant industry can be. We have full paid maternity leave, paternity leave for the fathers. It’s not huge, but some places don’t even offer it. On why there aren’t enough women as head chefs, [we should ask ourselves]: Are we doing enough? The kitchen is a hard place. Do we need to look at ways to make it more feasible and doable for women? Absolutely.

I see more younger women in kitchens now than I have ever before. The industry is changing. But I’m not the expert. We need to ask women what happens and what we can do to make the industry better for them. My CEO, for example, her husband is the one who takes care of the children. We should be asking my CEO those questions, not me. What’s happening now in the food industry with sexual harassment, you have more men in positions of power and they’re using it the wrong way. That’s every profession, every part of humanity, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Would you ever consider running for office?

I can’t run for office! I left school when I was 14, I never graduated from anything. But I’m. no. Not everybody can lead. I see a lot of leaders out there. The young girl who helps an old woman walk with her farmers market shopping across the street, that’s a leader. There’s many leaders. But I think what we’re seeing is that people are looking for leaders who are trustworthy.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Amy McCarthy is editor of Eater Dallas and Eater Houston.


José Andrés, the Accidental Humanitarian

As he sits in the dining room of the newly opened outpost of his much lauded Mediterranean eatery Zaytinya in a suburb of Dallas, the ever-racing mind of chef José Andrés is on Puerto Rico. “Puerto Rico is going to be okay,” Andrés says, “because they’re going to come away with a strong belief that they can overcome big obstacles.”

Andrés, of course, is referring to the island’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a storyline he’s become increasingly intertwined with as Puerto Rico works its way back toward normalcy. Since the hurricane hit in September, Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen have been on the front lines of global disaster relief.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, after getting a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by an earthquake in Haiti. In the ensuing years, Andrés has mobilized the organization to provide professional education to chefs in countries across the globe, build kitchens at underfunded schools, and teach food safety. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, he caught a flight to Dallas and drove the 250 miles to Space City to assist local chefs in a hunger relief effort that churned out tens of thousands of meals in the days following the storm.

Later, Andrés went to feed people in Florida after Hurricane Irma, and after the wildfires raged through the Napa Valley. But his most concentrated effort has been in Puerto Rico, where World Central Kitchen served as the primary food source for the island, churning out 3.5 million meals to date — with a full-time staff of just three people. (And that 3.5 million number is a low estimate, one that doesn’t count the 250,000 pounds of food Andrés brought when he landed.) While Andrés’s organization was doing this work, a single contractor was tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with getting 30 million meals to Puerto Rico, and granted a $156 million contract to get it done. Ultimately, that contractor only delivered 50,000 meals after creating a “logistical nightmare,” according to the New York Times.

In the midst of that chaos remains Andrés, whose background is in running restaurants, not providing large-scale disaster relief. Eater sat down with the chef to talk about Puerto Rico, the future of the island, and what’s next for the World Central Kitchen.

Is it still a struggle to get things in and out of Puerto Rico?

The great lesson of Puerto Rico is that the private sector has worked very well. I’m not an expert. but I saw firsthand FEMA, the military, the private sector working well. It took longer than some people liked, but the fuel and distance situation resolved quickly and fairly well.

If I was a water expert, I’d have ideas on what I would do differently. I would put in more infrastructure I would bring generators quicker. Water for me was one of the top problems on the island, so I would put more focus on bigger projects instead of trying to bring in bottles of water. The Pepsi plant and the beer plants activated, but mainly it was the Coke plant that was producing water and there were not enough hours in the day to produce more. People were afraid of running out. I would put more emphasis on disaster communication and in the water infrastructure on the island. That should have been resolved more quickly.

Talk about the logistics on the ground: How did the World Central Kitchen get food to so many people?

We opened an account, got cash, [but] some organizations were having processing problems with cards because there was no cell signal. The moment you move from San Juan, there was zero cell service: People couldn’t use food stamps, people couldn’t call to place orders, delivering food was impossible. Fresh food was impossible because there was no fuel for the generators. In the end, we placed our orders. We went by Sam’s Club. I felt guilty because Walmart gave us some money, they were very generous early on, but [a stipulation existed where we couldn’t spend it in any Walmart-owned stores]. But the only places where we didn’t have to wait in line was Sam’s Club. It was real money, and we had to spend it. We were like, “What the fuck, they can tell us this, but we need cheese and we need ham, and they have cheese and ham.”

How do you feel about the future of Puerto Rico?

I think Puerto Rico is going to have a great future. The people of Puerto Rico: It’s unbelievable how patient, how nice they were to each other, how supportive. We would go to communities and they would tell us, “We are okay, help these people in the mountains because nobody has helped them yet.” I’ve learned in my life [after lots of disaster relief experience], people more often than not don’t want our pity. They want our respect. They don’t want to take more than they need.

But we need to make it easier on Puerto Rico. We talk about colonies — I come from Spain, I know colonies. It’s unfair that we criticize Puerto Rico for being in debt but we have other states in America that are in debt too. They cannot compete in a free market because only American companies can deliver to them. If Puerto Rico is America — and I believe it is America and Puerto Ricans are Americans — this amounts to economic discrimination, and that’s unfair. We should not treat Puerto Rico any different than Hawaiʻi.

If there’s a natural disaster tomorrow, is WCK able to mobilize and go to that place immediately?

During the hurricane, we opened a school in Haiti, we had three chefs from the WCK chefs program teaching in Nicaragua. WCK only technically has three people on payroll. And none of them were day-to-day in Puerto Rico, because they had other projects. With three people on payroll, we’ve done 3.5 million meals. That’s not bad. The big thing is that we’ve got a lot of support, people are now looking at us.

When the next natural disaster happens, wherever that is, will World Central Kitchen be there?

Some days I wake up in the morning and [dream] I’m announcing that I’m retiring World Central Kitchen from relief, because we were not a relief organization. We were created because of what I saw in Haiti after the earthquake, but it was more long-term help than relief. You realize that the local organizations, the ones already on the ground, are more qualified to help because they’re there. They are the most capable ones.

In Puerto Rico one of the things I did was fly in some of my chefs from my company and we did an assessment, like in Houston. I needed a lot of chefs. I called [food service companies] Compass and Bon Appetit, and they were able to send me 12 chefs from the Compass network, all experts on volume. They came within 48 hours.

The teams allowed us to go from one restaurant to the next. At one point we had 21 kitchens going at the same time. On the big days, we reached 175,000 meals in one day. At one point we were doing 75,000 meals a day [just] from the main kitchen. We had three lines for sandwiches, three lines for hot food, and we maintained over 120,000 meals for a few weeks.

Did you see yourself as a humanitarian before Haiti? Do you now?

There is a quote: “Wherever there is a fight where hungry people will need to eat, I will be there.” I don’t know what I was drinking when I read that phase, but if one day I ever get a tattoo, it would probably be that phrase. I’ll do it on my forehead.

I like that phrase a lot. I’m going through a reckoning, not with who I am, but what I do. I am my wife, I am my daughters, I am my cooks, I am my chefs, I am my community. I think everybody should be saying “I am them.”

I am a pragmatic capitalist. I want to do well, but make sure that it is not at the expense of everyone else. I’m still going through the process of making that work. I want to believe that the guy who works with us has a good living. I want to believe that the people who came to you working as a dishwasher can become a head chef, I have a few of those. I have women that are sous chefs and they don’t want to be head chefs because they don’t want to. Because for them, it’s the right balance of family and work.

How can people like you who are in positions of power make the industry — and the kitchen — more friendly to women who want to be head chefs?

I know the president has been talking about that, but for me, with three daughters, I’m not going to barricade myself behind my daughters, but I want for them the moon and then some more. I’m very biased in that respect, but how to do it? I’m a guy that believes that we need to be providing the same opportunities to everybody. But humanity has always relied on women to be the ones who have the babies, that’s not something we can change. At least not yet. But then that follows everything else, and makes everything more difficult in the work environment for women.

Nobody’s perfect. This Christmas, in my company speech, I told them I knew these last four months had been tough for me and I raised my voice more than necessary. I told them when they see me doing it, to shout me down. I make sure that nobody crosses the line. If we all follow the rules of engagement, we can disagree socially, we can disagree politically, we can disagree with so many things.

We are as generous as the restaurant industry can be. We have full paid maternity leave, paternity leave for the fathers. It’s not huge, but some places don’t even offer it. On why there aren’t enough women as head chefs, [we should ask ourselves]: Are we doing enough? The kitchen is a hard place. Do we need to look at ways to make it more feasible and doable for women? Absolutely.

I see more younger women in kitchens now than I have ever before. The industry is changing. But I’m not the expert. We need to ask women what happens and what we can do to make the industry better for them. My CEO, for example, her husband is the one who takes care of the children. We should be asking my CEO those questions, not me. What’s happening now in the food industry with sexual harassment, you have more men in positions of power and they’re using it the wrong way. That’s every profession, every part of humanity, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Would you ever consider running for office?

I can’t run for office! I left school when I was 14, I never graduated from anything. But I’m. no. Not everybody can lead. I see a lot of leaders out there. The young girl who helps an old woman walk with her farmers market shopping across the street, that’s a leader. There’s many leaders. But I think what we’re seeing is that people are looking for leaders who are trustworthy.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Amy McCarthy is editor of Eater Dallas and Eater Houston.


José Andrés, the Accidental Humanitarian

As he sits in the dining room of the newly opened outpost of his much lauded Mediterranean eatery Zaytinya in a suburb of Dallas, the ever-racing mind of chef José Andrés is on Puerto Rico. “Puerto Rico is going to be okay,” Andrés says, “because they’re going to come away with a strong belief that they can overcome big obstacles.”

Andrés, of course, is referring to the island’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a storyline he’s become increasingly intertwined with as Puerto Rico works its way back toward normalcy. Since the hurricane hit in September, Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen have been on the front lines of global disaster relief.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, after getting a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by an earthquake in Haiti. In the ensuing years, Andrés has mobilized the organization to provide professional education to chefs in countries across the globe, build kitchens at underfunded schools, and teach food safety. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, he caught a flight to Dallas and drove the 250 miles to Space City to assist local chefs in a hunger relief effort that churned out tens of thousands of meals in the days following the storm.

Later, Andrés went to feed people in Florida after Hurricane Irma, and after the wildfires raged through the Napa Valley. But his most concentrated effort has been in Puerto Rico, where World Central Kitchen served as the primary food source for the island, churning out 3.5 million meals to date — with a full-time staff of just three people. (And that 3.5 million number is a low estimate, one that doesn’t count the 250,000 pounds of food Andrés brought when he landed.) While Andrés’s organization was doing this work, a single contractor was tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with getting 30 million meals to Puerto Rico, and granted a $156 million contract to get it done. Ultimately, that contractor only delivered 50,000 meals after creating a “logistical nightmare,” according to the New York Times.

In the midst of that chaos remains Andrés, whose background is in running restaurants, not providing large-scale disaster relief. Eater sat down with the chef to talk about Puerto Rico, the future of the island, and what’s next for the World Central Kitchen.

Is it still a struggle to get things in and out of Puerto Rico?

The great lesson of Puerto Rico is that the private sector has worked very well. I’m not an expert. but I saw firsthand FEMA, the military, the private sector working well. It took longer than some people liked, but the fuel and distance situation resolved quickly and fairly well.

If I was a water expert, I’d have ideas on what I would do differently. I would put in more infrastructure I would bring generators quicker. Water for me was one of the top problems on the island, so I would put more focus on bigger projects instead of trying to bring in bottles of water. The Pepsi plant and the beer plants activated, but mainly it was the Coke plant that was producing water and there were not enough hours in the day to produce more. People were afraid of running out. I would put more emphasis on disaster communication and in the water infrastructure on the island. That should have been resolved more quickly.

Talk about the logistics on the ground: How did the World Central Kitchen get food to so many people?

We opened an account, got cash, [but] some organizations were having processing problems with cards because there was no cell signal. The moment you move from San Juan, there was zero cell service: People couldn’t use food stamps, people couldn’t call to place orders, delivering food was impossible. Fresh food was impossible because there was no fuel for the generators. In the end, we placed our orders. We went by Sam’s Club. I felt guilty because Walmart gave us some money, they were very generous early on, but [a stipulation existed where we couldn’t spend it in any Walmart-owned stores]. But the only places where we didn’t have to wait in line was Sam’s Club. It was real money, and we had to spend it. We were like, “What the fuck, they can tell us this, but we need cheese and we need ham, and they have cheese and ham.”

How do you feel about the future of Puerto Rico?

I think Puerto Rico is going to have a great future. The people of Puerto Rico: It’s unbelievable how patient, how nice they were to each other, how supportive. We would go to communities and they would tell us, “We are okay, help these people in the mountains because nobody has helped them yet.” I’ve learned in my life [after lots of disaster relief experience], people more often than not don’t want our pity. They want our respect. They don’t want to take more than they need.

But we need to make it easier on Puerto Rico. We talk about colonies — I come from Spain, I know colonies. It’s unfair that we criticize Puerto Rico for being in debt but we have other states in America that are in debt too. They cannot compete in a free market because only American companies can deliver to them. If Puerto Rico is America — and I believe it is America and Puerto Ricans are Americans — this amounts to economic discrimination, and that’s unfair. We should not treat Puerto Rico any different than Hawaiʻi.

If there’s a natural disaster tomorrow, is WCK able to mobilize and go to that place immediately?

During the hurricane, we opened a school in Haiti, we had three chefs from the WCK chefs program teaching in Nicaragua. WCK only technically has three people on payroll. And none of them were day-to-day in Puerto Rico, because they had other projects. With three people on payroll, we’ve done 3.5 million meals. That’s not bad. The big thing is that we’ve got a lot of support, people are now looking at us.

When the next natural disaster happens, wherever that is, will World Central Kitchen be there?

Some days I wake up in the morning and [dream] I’m announcing that I’m retiring World Central Kitchen from relief, because we were not a relief organization. We were created because of what I saw in Haiti after the earthquake, but it was more long-term help than relief. You realize that the local organizations, the ones already on the ground, are more qualified to help because they’re there. They are the most capable ones.

In Puerto Rico one of the things I did was fly in some of my chefs from my company and we did an assessment, like in Houston. I needed a lot of chefs. I called [food service companies] Compass and Bon Appetit, and they were able to send me 12 chefs from the Compass network, all experts on volume. They came within 48 hours.

The teams allowed us to go from one restaurant to the next. At one point we had 21 kitchens going at the same time. On the big days, we reached 175,000 meals in one day. At one point we were doing 75,000 meals a day [just] from the main kitchen. We had three lines for sandwiches, three lines for hot food, and we maintained over 120,000 meals for a few weeks.

Did you see yourself as a humanitarian before Haiti? Do you now?

There is a quote: “Wherever there is a fight where hungry people will need to eat, I will be there.” I don’t know what I was drinking when I read that phase, but if one day I ever get a tattoo, it would probably be that phrase. I’ll do it on my forehead.

I like that phrase a lot. I’m going through a reckoning, not with who I am, but what I do. I am my wife, I am my daughters, I am my cooks, I am my chefs, I am my community. I think everybody should be saying “I am them.”

I am a pragmatic capitalist. I want to do well, but make sure that it is not at the expense of everyone else. I’m still going through the process of making that work. I want to believe that the guy who works with us has a good living. I want to believe that the people who came to you working as a dishwasher can become a head chef, I have a few of those. I have women that are sous chefs and they don’t want to be head chefs because they don’t want to. Because for them, it’s the right balance of family and work.

How can people like you who are in positions of power make the industry — and the kitchen — more friendly to women who want to be head chefs?

I know the president has been talking about that, but for me, with three daughters, I’m not going to barricade myself behind my daughters, but I want for them the moon and then some more. I’m very biased in that respect, but how to do it? I’m a guy that believes that we need to be providing the same opportunities to everybody. But humanity has always relied on women to be the ones who have the babies, that’s not something we can change. At least not yet. But then that follows everything else, and makes everything more difficult in the work environment for women.

Nobody’s perfect. This Christmas, in my company speech, I told them I knew these last four months had been tough for me and I raised my voice more than necessary. I told them when they see me doing it, to shout me down. I make sure that nobody crosses the line. If we all follow the rules of engagement, we can disagree socially, we can disagree politically, we can disagree with so many things.

We are as generous as the restaurant industry can be. We have full paid maternity leave, paternity leave for the fathers. It’s not huge, but some places don’t even offer it. On why there aren’t enough women as head chefs, [we should ask ourselves]: Are we doing enough? The kitchen is a hard place. Do we need to look at ways to make it more feasible and doable for women? Absolutely.

I see more younger women in kitchens now than I have ever before. The industry is changing. But I’m not the expert. We need to ask women what happens and what we can do to make the industry better for them. My CEO, for example, her husband is the one who takes care of the children. We should be asking my CEO those questions, not me. What’s happening now in the food industry with sexual harassment, you have more men in positions of power and they’re using it the wrong way. That’s every profession, every part of humanity, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Would you ever consider running for office?

I can’t run for office! I left school when I was 14, I never graduated from anything. But I’m. no. Not everybody can lead. I see a lot of leaders out there. The young girl who helps an old woman walk with her farmers market shopping across the street, that’s a leader. There’s many leaders. But I think what we’re seeing is that people are looking for leaders who are trustworthy.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Amy McCarthy is editor of Eater Dallas and Eater Houston.


José Andrés, the Accidental Humanitarian

As he sits in the dining room of the newly opened outpost of his much lauded Mediterranean eatery Zaytinya in a suburb of Dallas, the ever-racing mind of chef José Andrés is on Puerto Rico. “Puerto Rico is going to be okay,” Andrés says, “because they’re going to come away with a strong belief that they can overcome big obstacles.”

Andrés, of course, is referring to the island’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a storyline he’s become increasingly intertwined with as Puerto Rico works its way back toward normalcy. Since the hurricane hit in September, Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen have been on the front lines of global disaster relief.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, after getting a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by an earthquake in Haiti. In the ensuing years, Andrés has mobilized the organization to provide professional education to chefs in countries across the globe, build kitchens at underfunded schools, and teach food safety. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, he caught a flight to Dallas and drove the 250 miles to Space City to assist local chefs in a hunger relief effort that churned out tens of thousands of meals in the days following the storm.

Later, Andrés went to feed people in Florida after Hurricane Irma, and after the wildfires raged through the Napa Valley. But his most concentrated effort has been in Puerto Rico, where World Central Kitchen served as the primary food source for the island, churning out 3.5 million meals to date — with a full-time staff of just three people. (And that 3.5 million number is a low estimate, one that doesn’t count the 250,000 pounds of food Andrés brought when he landed.) While Andrés’s organization was doing this work, a single contractor was tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with getting 30 million meals to Puerto Rico, and granted a $156 million contract to get it done. Ultimately, that contractor only delivered 50,000 meals after creating a “logistical nightmare,” according to the New York Times.

In the midst of that chaos remains Andrés, whose background is in running restaurants, not providing large-scale disaster relief. Eater sat down with the chef to talk about Puerto Rico, the future of the island, and what’s next for the World Central Kitchen.

Is it still a struggle to get things in and out of Puerto Rico?

The great lesson of Puerto Rico is that the private sector has worked very well. I’m not an expert. but I saw firsthand FEMA, the military, the private sector working well. It took longer than some people liked, but the fuel and distance situation resolved quickly and fairly well.

If I was a water expert, I’d have ideas on what I would do differently. I would put in more infrastructure I would bring generators quicker. Water for me was one of the top problems on the island, so I would put more focus on bigger projects instead of trying to bring in bottles of water. The Pepsi plant and the beer plants activated, but mainly it was the Coke plant that was producing water and there were not enough hours in the day to produce more. People were afraid of running out. I would put more emphasis on disaster communication and in the water infrastructure on the island. That should have been resolved more quickly.

Talk about the logistics on the ground: How did the World Central Kitchen get food to so many people?

We opened an account, got cash, [but] some organizations were having processing problems with cards because there was no cell signal. The moment you move from San Juan, there was zero cell service: People couldn’t use food stamps, people couldn’t call to place orders, delivering food was impossible. Fresh food was impossible because there was no fuel for the generators. In the end, we placed our orders. We went by Sam’s Club. I felt guilty because Walmart gave us some money, they were very generous early on, but [a stipulation existed where we couldn’t spend it in any Walmart-owned stores]. But the only places where we didn’t have to wait in line was Sam’s Club. It was real money, and we had to spend it. We were like, “What the fuck, they can tell us this, but we need cheese and we need ham, and they have cheese and ham.”

How do you feel about the future of Puerto Rico?

I think Puerto Rico is going to have a great future. The people of Puerto Rico: It’s unbelievable how patient, how nice they were to each other, how supportive. We would go to communities and they would tell us, “We are okay, help these people in the mountains because nobody has helped them yet.” I’ve learned in my life [after lots of disaster relief experience], people more often than not don’t want our pity. They want our respect. They don’t want to take more than they need.

But we need to make it easier on Puerto Rico. We talk about colonies — I come from Spain, I know colonies. It’s unfair that we criticize Puerto Rico for being in debt but we have other states in America that are in debt too. They cannot compete in a free market because only American companies can deliver to them. If Puerto Rico is America — and I believe it is America and Puerto Ricans are Americans — this amounts to economic discrimination, and that’s unfair. We should not treat Puerto Rico any different than Hawaiʻi.

If there’s a natural disaster tomorrow, is WCK able to mobilize and go to that place immediately?

During the hurricane, we opened a school in Haiti, we had three chefs from the WCK chefs program teaching in Nicaragua. WCK only technically has three people on payroll. And none of them were day-to-day in Puerto Rico, because they had other projects. With three people on payroll, we’ve done 3.5 million meals. That’s not bad. The big thing is that we’ve got a lot of support, people are now looking at us.

When the next natural disaster happens, wherever that is, will World Central Kitchen be there?

Some days I wake up in the morning and [dream] I’m announcing that I’m retiring World Central Kitchen from relief, because we were not a relief organization. We were created because of what I saw in Haiti after the earthquake, but it was more long-term help than relief. You realize that the local organizations, the ones already on the ground, are more qualified to help because they’re there. They are the most capable ones.

In Puerto Rico one of the things I did was fly in some of my chefs from my company and we did an assessment, like in Houston. I needed a lot of chefs. I called [food service companies] Compass and Bon Appetit, and they were able to send me 12 chefs from the Compass network, all experts on volume. They came within 48 hours.

The teams allowed us to go from one restaurant to the next. At one point we had 21 kitchens going at the same time. On the big days, we reached 175,000 meals in one day. At one point we were doing 75,000 meals a day [just] from the main kitchen. We had three lines for sandwiches, three lines for hot food, and we maintained over 120,000 meals for a few weeks.

Did you see yourself as a humanitarian before Haiti? Do you now?

There is a quote: “Wherever there is a fight where hungry people will need to eat, I will be there.” I don’t know what I was drinking when I read that phase, but if one day I ever get a tattoo, it would probably be that phrase. I’ll do it on my forehead.

I like that phrase a lot. I’m going through a reckoning, not with who I am, but what I do. I am my wife, I am my daughters, I am my cooks, I am my chefs, I am my community. I think everybody should be saying “I am them.”

I am a pragmatic capitalist. I want to do well, but make sure that it is not at the expense of everyone else. I’m still going through the process of making that work. I want to believe that the guy who works with us has a good living. I want to believe that the people who came to you working as a dishwasher can become a head chef, I have a few of those. I have women that are sous chefs and they don’t want to be head chefs because they don’t want to. Because for them, it’s the right balance of family and work.

How can people like you who are in positions of power make the industry — and the kitchen — more friendly to women who want to be head chefs?

I know the president has been talking about that, but for me, with three daughters, I’m not going to barricade myself behind my daughters, but I want for them the moon and then some more. I’m very biased in that respect, but how to do it? I’m a guy that believes that we need to be providing the same opportunities to everybody. But humanity has always relied on women to be the ones who have the babies, that’s not something we can change. At least not yet. But then that follows everything else, and makes everything more difficult in the work environment for women.

Nobody’s perfect. This Christmas, in my company speech, I told them I knew these last four months had been tough for me and I raised my voice more than necessary. I told them when they see me doing it, to shout me down. I make sure that nobody crosses the line. If we all follow the rules of engagement, we can disagree socially, we can disagree politically, we can disagree with so many things.

We are as generous as the restaurant industry can be. We have full paid maternity leave, paternity leave for the fathers. It’s not huge, but some places don’t even offer it. On why there aren’t enough women as head chefs, [we should ask ourselves]: Are we doing enough? The kitchen is a hard place. Do we need to look at ways to make it more feasible and doable for women? Absolutely.

I see more younger women in kitchens now than I have ever before. The industry is changing. But I’m not the expert. We need to ask women what happens and what we can do to make the industry better for them. My CEO, for example, her husband is the one who takes care of the children. We should be asking my CEO those questions, not me. What’s happening now in the food industry with sexual harassment, you have more men in positions of power and they’re using it the wrong way. That’s every profession, every part of humanity, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Would you ever consider running for office?

I can’t run for office! I left school when I was 14, I never graduated from anything. But I’m. no. Not everybody can lead. I see a lot of leaders out there. The young girl who helps an old woman walk with her farmers market shopping across the street, that’s a leader. There’s many leaders. But I think what we’re seeing is that people are looking for leaders who are trustworthy.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Amy McCarthy is editor of Eater Dallas and Eater Houston.


José Andrés, the Accidental Humanitarian

As he sits in the dining room of the newly opened outpost of his much lauded Mediterranean eatery Zaytinya in a suburb of Dallas, the ever-racing mind of chef José Andrés is on Puerto Rico. “Puerto Rico is going to be okay,” Andrés says, “because they’re going to come away with a strong belief that they can overcome big obstacles.”

Andrés, of course, is referring to the island’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a storyline he’s become increasingly intertwined with as Puerto Rico works its way back toward normalcy. Since the hurricane hit in September, Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen have been on the front lines of global disaster relief.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, after getting a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by an earthquake in Haiti. In the ensuing years, Andrés has mobilized the organization to provide professional education to chefs in countries across the globe, build kitchens at underfunded schools, and teach food safety. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, he caught a flight to Dallas and drove the 250 miles to Space City to assist local chefs in a hunger relief effort that churned out tens of thousands of meals in the days following the storm.

Later, Andrés went to feed people in Florida after Hurricane Irma, and after the wildfires raged through the Napa Valley. But his most concentrated effort has been in Puerto Rico, where World Central Kitchen served as the primary food source for the island, churning out 3.5 million meals to date — with a full-time staff of just three people. (And that 3.5 million number is a low estimate, one that doesn’t count the 250,000 pounds of food Andrés brought when he landed.) While Andrés’s organization was doing this work, a single contractor was tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with getting 30 million meals to Puerto Rico, and granted a $156 million contract to get it done. Ultimately, that contractor only delivered 50,000 meals after creating a “logistical nightmare,” according to the New York Times.

In the midst of that chaos remains Andrés, whose background is in running restaurants, not providing large-scale disaster relief. Eater sat down with the chef to talk about Puerto Rico, the future of the island, and what’s next for the World Central Kitchen.

Is it still a struggle to get things in and out of Puerto Rico?

The great lesson of Puerto Rico is that the private sector has worked very well. I’m not an expert. but I saw firsthand FEMA, the military, the private sector working well. It took longer than some people liked, but the fuel and distance situation resolved quickly and fairly well.

If I was a water expert, I’d have ideas on what I would do differently. I would put in more infrastructure I would bring generators quicker. Water for me was one of the top problems on the island, so I would put more focus on bigger projects instead of trying to bring in bottles of water. The Pepsi plant and the beer plants activated, but mainly it was the Coke plant that was producing water and there were not enough hours in the day to produce more. People were afraid of running out. I would put more emphasis on disaster communication and in the water infrastructure on the island. That should have been resolved more quickly.

Talk about the logistics on the ground: How did the World Central Kitchen get food to so many people?

We opened an account, got cash, [but] some organizations were having processing problems with cards because there was no cell signal. The moment you move from San Juan, there was zero cell service: People couldn’t use food stamps, people couldn’t call to place orders, delivering food was impossible. Fresh food was impossible because there was no fuel for the generators. In the end, we placed our orders. We went by Sam’s Club. I felt guilty because Walmart gave us some money, they were very generous early on, but [a stipulation existed where we couldn’t spend it in any Walmart-owned stores]. But the only places where we didn’t have to wait in line was Sam’s Club. It was real money, and we had to spend it. We were like, “What the fuck, they can tell us this, but we need cheese and we need ham, and they have cheese and ham.”

How do you feel about the future of Puerto Rico?

I think Puerto Rico is going to have a great future. The people of Puerto Rico: It’s unbelievable how patient, how nice they were to each other, how supportive. We would go to communities and they would tell us, “We are okay, help these people in the mountains because nobody has helped them yet.” I’ve learned in my life [after lots of disaster relief experience], people more often than not don’t want our pity. They want our respect. They don’t want to take more than they need.

But we need to make it easier on Puerto Rico. We talk about colonies — I come from Spain, I know colonies. It’s unfair that we criticize Puerto Rico for being in debt but we have other states in America that are in debt too. They cannot compete in a free market because only American companies can deliver to them. If Puerto Rico is America — and I believe it is America and Puerto Ricans are Americans — this amounts to economic discrimination, and that’s unfair. We should not treat Puerto Rico any different than Hawaiʻi.

If there’s a natural disaster tomorrow, is WCK able to mobilize and go to that place immediately?

During the hurricane, we opened a school in Haiti, we had three chefs from the WCK chefs program teaching in Nicaragua. WCK only technically has three people on payroll. And none of them were day-to-day in Puerto Rico, because they had other projects. With three people on payroll, we’ve done 3.5 million meals. That’s not bad. The big thing is that we’ve got a lot of support, people are now looking at us.

When the next natural disaster happens, wherever that is, will World Central Kitchen be there?

Some days I wake up in the morning and [dream] I’m announcing that I’m retiring World Central Kitchen from relief, because we were not a relief organization. We were created because of what I saw in Haiti after the earthquake, but it was more long-term help than relief. You realize that the local organizations, the ones already on the ground, are more qualified to help because they’re there. They are the most capable ones.

In Puerto Rico one of the things I did was fly in some of my chefs from my company and we did an assessment, like in Houston. I needed a lot of chefs. I called [food service companies] Compass and Bon Appetit, and they were able to send me 12 chefs from the Compass network, all experts on volume. They came within 48 hours.

The teams allowed us to go from one restaurant to the next. At one point we had 21 kitchens going at the same time. On the big days, we reached 175,000 meals in one day. At one point we were doing 75,000 meals a day [just] from the main kitchen. We had three lines for sandwiches, three lines for hot food, and we maintained over 120,000 meals for a few weeks.

Did you see yourself as a humanitarian before Haiti? Do you now?

There is a quote: “Wherever there is a fight where hungry people will need to eat, I will be there.” I don’t know what I was drinking when I read that phase, but if one day I ever get a tattoo, it would probably be that phrase. I’ll do it on my forehead.

I like that phrase a lot. I’m going through a reckoning, not with who I am, but what I do. I am my wife, I am my daughters, I am my cooks, I am my chefs, I am my community. I think everybody should be saying “I am them.”

I am a pragmatic capitalist. I want to do well, but make sure that it is not at the expense of everyone else. I’m still going through the process of making that work. I want to believe that the guy who works with us has a good living. I want to believe that the people who came to you working as a dishwasher can become a head chef, I have a few of those. I have women that are sous chefs and they don’t want to be head chefs because they don’t want to. Because for them, it’s the right balance of family and work.

How can people like you who are in positions of power make the industry — and the kitchen — more friendly to women who want to be head chefs?

I know the president has been talking about that, but for me, with three daughters, I’m not going to barricade myself behind my daughters, but I want for them the moon and then some more. I’m very biased in that respect, but how to do it? I’m a guy that believes that we need to be providing the same opportunities to everybody. But humanity has always relied on women to be the ones who have the babies, that’s not something we can change. At least not yet. But then that follows everything else, and makes everything more difficult in the work environment for women.

Nobody’s perfect. This Christmas, in my company speech, I told them I knew these last four months had been tough for me and I raised my voice more than necessary. I told them when they see me doing it, to shout me down. I make sure that nobody crosses the line. If we all follow the rules of engagement, we can disagree socially, we can disagree politically, we can disagree with so many things.

We are as generous as the restaurant industry can be. We have full paid maternity leave, paternity leave for the fathers. It’s not huge, but some places don’t even offer it. On why there aren’t enough women as head chefs, [we should ask ourselves]: Are we doing enough? The kitchen is a hard place. Do we need to look at ways to make it more feasible and doable for women? Absolutely.

I see more younger women in kitchens now than I have ever before. The industry is changing. But I’m not the expert. We need to ask women what happens and what we can do to make the industry better for them. My CEO, for example, her husband is the one who takes care of the children. We should be asking my CEO those questions, not me. What’s happening now in the food industry with sexual harassment, you have more men in positions of power and they’re using it the wrong way. That’s every profession, every part of humanity, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Would you ever consider running for office?

I can’t run for office! I left school when I was 14, I never graduated from anything. But I’m. no. Not everybody can lead. I see a lot of leaders out there. The young girl who helps an old woman walk with her farmers market shopping across the street, that’s a leader. There’s many leaders. But I think what we’re seeing is that people are looking for leaders who are trustworthy.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Amy McCarthy is editor of Eater Dallas and Eater Houston.


José Andrés, the Accidental Humanitarian

As he sits in the dining room of the newly opened outpost of his much lauded Mediterranean eatery Zaytinya in a suburb of Dallas, the ever-racing mind of chef José Andrés is on Puerto Rico. “Puerto Rico is going to be okay,” Andrés says, “because they’re going to come away with a strong belief that they can overcome big obstacles.”

Andrés, of course, is referring to the island’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a storyline he’s become increasingly intertwined with as Puerto Rico works its way back toward normalcy. Since the hurricane hit in September, Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen have been on the front lines of global disaster relief.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, after getting a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by an earthquake in Haiti. In the ensuing years, Andrés has mobilized the organization to provide professional education to chefs in countries across the globe, build kitchens at underfunded schools, and teach food safety. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, he caught a flight to Dallas and drove the 250 miles to Space City to assist local chefs in a hunger relief effort that churned out tens of thousands of meals in the days following the storm.

Later, Andrés went to feed people in Florida after Hurricane Irma, and after the wildfires raged through the Napa Valley. But his most concentrated effort has been in Puerto Rico, where World Central Kitchen served as the primary food source for the island, churning out 3.5 million meals to date — with a full-time staff of just three people. (And that 3.5 million number is a low estimate, one that doesn’t count the 250,000 pounds of food Andrés brought when he landed.) While Andrés’s organization was doing this work, a single contractor was tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with getting 30 million meals to Puerto Rico, and granted a $156 million contract to get it done. Ultimately, that contractor only delivered 50,000 meals after creating a “logistical nightmare,” according to the New York Times.

In the midst of that chaos remains Andrés, whose background is in running restaurants, not providing large-scale disaster relief. Eater sat down with the chef to talk about Puerto Rico, the future of the island, and what’s next for the World Central Kitchen.

Is it still a struggle to get things in and out of Puerto Rico?

The great lesson of Puerto Rico is that the private sector has worked very well. I’m not an expert. but I saw firsthand FEMA, the military, the private sector working well. It took longer than some people liked, but the fuel and distance situation resolved quickly and fairly well.

If I was a water expert, I’d have ideas on what I would do differently. I would put in more infrastructure I would bring generators quicker. Water for me was one of the top problems on the island, so I would put more focus on bigger projects instead of trying to bring in bottles of water. The Pepsi plant and the beer plants activated, but mainly it was the Coke plant that was producing water and there were not enough hours in the day to produce more. People were afraid of running out. I would put more emphasis on disaster communication and in the water infrastructure on the island. That should have been resolved more quickly.

Talk about the logistics on the ground: How did the World Central Kitchen get food to so many people?

We opened an account, got cash, [but] some organizations were having processing problems with cards because there was no cell signal. The moment you move from San Juan, there was zero cell service: People couldn’t use food stamps, people couldn’t call to place orders, delivering food was impossible. Fresh food was impossible because there was no fuel for the generators. In the end, we placed our orders. We went by Sam’s Club. I felt guilty because Walmart gave us some money, they were very generous early on, but [a stipulation existed where we couldn’t spend it in any Walmart-owned stores]. But the only places where we didn’t have to wait in line was Sam’s Club. It was real money, and we had to spend it. We were like, “What the fuck, they can tell us this, but we need cheese and we need ham, and they have cheese and ham.”

How do you feel about the future of Puerto Rico?

I think Puerto Rico is going to have a great future. The people of Puerto Rico: It’s unbelievable how patient, how nice they were to each other, how supportive. We would go to communities and they would tell us, “We are okay, help these people in the mountains because nobody has helped them yet.” I’ve learned in my life [after lots of disaster relief experience], people more often than not don’t want our pity. They want our respect. They don’t want to take more than they need.

But we need to make it easier on Puerto Rico. We talk about colonies — I come from Spain, I know colonies. It’s unfair that we criticize Puerto Rico for being in debt but we have other states in America that are in debt too. They cannot compete in a free market because only American companies can deliver to them. If Puerto Rico is America — and I believe it is America and Puerto Ricans are Americans — this amounts to economic discrimination, and that’s unfair. We should not treat Puerto Rico any different than Hawaiʻi.

If there’s a natural disaster tomorrow, is WCK able to mobilize and go to that place immediately?

During the hurricane, we opened a school in Haiti, we had three chefs from the WCK chefs program teaching in Nicaragua. WCK only technically has three people on payroll. And none of them were day-to-day in Puerto Rico, because they had other projects. With three people on payroll, we’ve done 3.5 million meals. That’s not bad. The big thing is that we’ve got a lot of support, people are now looking at us.

When the next natural disaster happens, wherever that is, will World Central Kitchen be there?

Some days I wake up in the morning and [dream] I’m announcing that I’m retiring World Central Kitchen from relief, because we were not a relief organization. We were created because of what I saw in Haiti after the earthquake, but it was more long-term help than relief. You realize that the local organizations, the ones already on the ground, are more qualified to help because they’re there. They are the most capable ones.

In Puerto Rico one of the things I did was fly in some of my chefs from my company and we did an assessment, like in Houston. I needed a lot of chefs. I called [food service companies] Compass and Bon Appetit, and they were able to send me 12 chefs from the Compass network, all experts on volume. They came within 48 hours.

The teams allowed us to go from one restaurant to the next. At one point we had 21 kitchens going at the same time. On the big days, we reached 175,000 meals in one day. At one point we were doing 75,000 meals a day [just] from the main kitchen. We had three lines for sandwiches, three lines for hot food, and we maintained over 120,000 meals for a few weeks.

Did you see yourself as a humanitarian before Haiti? Do you now?

There is a quote: “Wherever there is a fight where hungry people will need to eat, I will be there.” I don’t know what I was drinking when I read that phase, but if one day I ever get a tattoo, it would probably be that phrase. I’ll do it on my forehead.

I like that phrase a lot. I’m going through a reckoning, not with who I am, but what I do. I am my wife, I am my daughters, I am my cooks, I am my chefs, I am my community. I think everybody should be saying “I am them.”

I am a pragmatic capitalist. I want to do well, but make sure that it is not at the expense of everyone else. I’m still going through the process of making that work. I want to believe that the guy who works with us has a good living. I want to believe that the people who came to you working as a dishwasher can become a head chef, I have a few of those. I have women that are sous chefs and they don’t want to be head chefs because they don’t want to. Because for them, it’s the right balance of family and work.

How can people like you who are in positions of power make the industry — and the kitchen — more friendly to women who want to be head chefs?

I know the president has been talking about that, but for me, with three daughters, I’m not going to barricade myself behind my daughters, but I want for them the moon and then some more. I’m very biased in that respect, but how to do it? I’m a guy that believes that we need to be providing the same opportunities to everybody. But humanity has always relied on women to be the ones who have the babies, that’s not something we can change. At least not yet. But then that follows everything else, and makes everything more difficult in the work environment for women.

Nobody’s perfect. This Christmas, in my company speech, I told them I knew these last four months had been tough for me and I raised my voice more than necessary. I told them when they see me doing it, to shout me down. I make sure that nobody crosses the line. If we all follow the rules of engagement, we can disagree socially, we can disagree politically, we can disagree with so many things.

We are as generous as the restaurant industry can be. We have full paid maternity leave, paternity leave for the fathers. It’s not huge, but some places don’t even offer it. On why there aren’t enough women as head chefs, [we should ask ourselves]: Are we doing enough? The kitchen is a hard place. Do we need to look at ways to make it more feasible and doable for women? Absolutely.

I see more younger women in kitchens now than I have ever before. The industry is changing. But I’m not the expert. We need to ask women what happens and what we can do to make the industry better for them. My CEO, for example, her husband is the one who takes care of the children. We should be asking my CEO those questions, not me. What’s happening now in the food industry with sexual harassment, you have more men in positions of power and they’re using it the wrong way. That’s every profession, every part of humanity, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Would you ever consider running for office?

I can’t run for office! I left school when I was 14, I never graduated from anything. But I’m. no. Not everybody can lead. I see a lot of leaders out there. The young girl who helps an old woman walk with her farmers market shopping across the street, that’s a leader. There’s many leaders. But I think what we’re seeing is that people are looking for leaders who are trustworthy.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Amy McCarthy is editor of Eater Dallas and Eater Houston.


José Andrés, the Accidental Humanitarian

As he sits in the dining room of the newly opened outpost of his much lauded Mediterranean eatery Zaytinya in a suburb of Dallas, the ever-racing mind of chef José Andrés is on Puerto Rico. “Puerto Rico is going to be okay,” Andrés says, “because they’re going to come away with a strong belief that they can overcome big obstacles.”

Andrés, of course, is referring to the island’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a storyline he’s become increasingly intertwined with as Puerto Rico works its way back toward normalcy. Since the hurricane hit in September, Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen have been on the front lines of global disaster relief.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, after getting a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by an earthquake in Haiti. In the ensuing years, Andrés has mobilized the organization to provide professional education to chefs in countries across the globe, build kitchens at underfunded schools, and teach food safety. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, he caught a flight to Dallas and drove the 250 miles to Space City to assist local chefs in a hunger relief effort that churned out tens of thousands of meals in the days following the storm.

Later, Andrés went to feed people in Florida after Hurricane Irma, and after the wildfires raged through the Napa Valley. But his most concentrated effort has been in Puerto Rico, where World Central Kitchen served as the primary food source for the island, churning out 3.5 million meals to date — with a full-time staff of just three people. (And that 3.5 million number is a low estimate, one that doesn’t count the 250,000 pounds of food Andrés brought when he landed.) While Andrés’s organization was doing this work, a single contractor was tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with getting 30 million meals to Puerto Rico, and granted a $156 million contract to get it done. Ultimately, that contractor only delivered 50,000 meals after creating a “logistical nightmare,” according to the New York Times.

In the midst of that chaos remains Andrés, whose background is in running restaurants, not providing large-scale disaster relief. Eater sat down with the chef to talk about Puerto Rico, the future of the island, and what’s next for the World Central Kitchen.

Is it still a struggle to get things in and out of Puerto Rico?

The great lesson of Puerto Rico is that the private sector has worked very well. I’m not an expert. but I saw firsthand FEMA, the military, the private sector working well. It took longer than some people liked, but the fuel and distance situation resolved quickly and fairly well.

If I was a water expert, I’d have ideas on what I would do differently. I would put in more infrastructure I would bring generators quicker. Water for me was one of the top problems on the island, so I would put more focus on bigger projects instead of trying to bring in bottles of water. The Pepsi plant and the beer plants activated, but mainly it was the Coke plant that was producing water and there were not enough hours in the day to produce more. People were afraid of running out. I would put more emphasis on disaster communication and in the water infrastructure on the island. That should have been resolved more quickly.

Talk about the logistics on the ground: How did the World Central Kitchen get food to so many people?

We opened an account, got cash, [but] some organizations were having processing problems with cards because there was no cell signal. The moment you move from San Juan, there was zero cell service: People couldn’t use food stamps, people couldn’t call to place orders, delivering food was impossible. Fresh food was impossible because there was no fuel for the generators. In the end, we placed our orders. We went by Sam’s Club. I felt guilty because Walmart gave us some money, they were very generous early on, but [a stipulation existed where we couldn’t spend it in any Walmart-owned stores]. But the only places where we didn’t have to wait in line was Sam’s Club. It was real money, and we had to spend it. We were like, “What the fuck, they can tell us this, but we need cheese and we need ham, and they have cheese and ham.”

How do you feel about the future of Puerto Rico?

I think Puerto Rico is going to have a great future. The people of Puerto Rico: It’s unbelievable how patient, how nice they were to each other, how supportive. We would go to communities and they would tell us, “We are okay, help these people in the mountains because nobody has helped them yet.” I’ve learned in my life [after lots of disaster relief experience], people more often than not don’t want our pity. They want our respect. They don’t want to take more than they need.

But we need to make it easier on Puerto Rico. We talk about colonies — I come from Spain, I know colonies. It’s unfair that we criticize Puerto Rico for being in debt but we have other states in America that are in debt too. They cannot compete in a free market because only American companies can deliver to them. If Puerto Rico is America — and I believe it is America and Puerto Ricans are Americans — this amounts to economic discrimination, and that’s unfair. We should not treat Puerto Rico any different than Hawaiʻi.

If there’s a natural disaster tomorrow, is WCK able to mobilize and go to that place immediately?

During the hurricane, we opened a school in Haiti, we had three chefs from the WCK chefs program teaching in Nicaragua. WCK only technically has three people on payroll. And none of them were day-to-day in Puerto Rico, because they had other projects. With three people on payroll, we’ve done 3.5 million meals. That’s not bad. The big thing is that we’ve got a lot of support, people are now looking at us.

When the next natural disaster happens, wherever that is, will World Central Kitchen be there?

Some days I wake up in the morning and [dream] I’m announcing that I’m retiring World Central Kitchen from relief, because we were not a relief organization. We were created because of what I saw in Haiti after the earthquake, but it was more long-term help than relief. You realize that the local organizations, the ones already on the ground, are more qualified to help because they’re there. They are the most capable ones.

In Puerto Rico one of the things I did was fly in some of my chefs from my company and we did an assessment, like in Houston. I needed a lot of chefs. I called [food service companies] Compass and Bon Appetit, and they were able to send me 12 chefs from the Compass network, all experts on volume. They came within 48 hours.

The teams allowed us to go from one restaurant to the next. At one point we had 21 kitchens going at the same time. On the big days, we reached 175,000 meals in one day. At one point we were doing 75,000 meals a day [just] from the main kitchen. We had three lines for sandwiches, three lines for hot food, and we maintained over 120,000 meals for a few weeks.

Did you see yourself as a humanitarian before Haiti? Do you now?

There is a quote: “Wherever there is a fight where hungry people will need to eat, I will be there.” I don’t know what I was drinking when I read that phase, but if one day I ever get a tattoo, it would probably be that phrase. I’ll do it on my forehead.

I like that phrase a lot. I’m going through a reckoning, not with who I am, but what I do. I am my wife, I am my daughters, I am my cooks, I am my chefs, I am my community. I think everybody should be saying “I am them.”

I am a pragmatic capitalist. I want to do well, but make sure that it is not at the expense of everyone else. I’m still going through the process of making that work. I want to believe that the guy who works with us has a good living. I want to believe that the people who came to you working as a dishwasher can become a head chef, I have a few of those. I have women that are sous chefs and they don’t want to be head chefs because they don’t want to. Because for them, it’s the right balance of family and work.

How can people like you who are in positions of power make the industry — and the kitchen — more friendly to women who want to be head chefs?

I know the president has been talking about that, but for me, with three daughters, I’m not going to barricade myself behind my daughters, but I want for them the moon and then some more. I’m very biased in that respect, but how to do it? I’m a guy that believes that we need to be providing the same opportunities to everybody. But humanity has always relied on women to be the ones who have the babies, that’s not something we can change. At least not yet. But then that follows everything else, and makes everything more difficult in the work environment for women.

Nobody’s perfect. This Christmas, in my company speech, I told them I knew these last four months had been tough for me and I raised my voice more than necessary. I told them when they see me doing it, to shout me down. I make sure that nobody crosses the line. If we all follow the rules of engagement, we can disagree socially, we can disagree politically, we can disagree with so many things.

We are as generous as the restaurant industry can be. We have full paid maternity leave, paternity leave for the fathers. It’s not huge, but some places don’t even offer it. On why there aren’t enough women as head chefs, [we should ask ourselves]: Are we doing enough? The kitchen is a hard place. Do we need to look at ways to make it more feasible and doable for women? Absolutely.

I see more younger women in kitchens now than I have ever before. The industry is changing. But I’m not the expert. We need to ask women what happens and what we can do to make the industry better for them. My CEO, for example, her husband is the one who takes care of the children. We should be asking my CEO those questions, not me. What’s happening now in the food industry with sexual harassment, you have more men in positions of power and they’re using it the wrong way. That’s every profession, every part of humanity, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Would you ever consider running for office?

I can’t run for office! I left school when I was 14, I never graduated from anything. But I’m. no. Not everybody can lead. I see a lot of leaders out there. The young girl who helps an old woman walk with her farmers market shopping across the street, that’s a leader. There’s many leaders. But I think what we’re seeing is that people are looking for leaders who are trustworthy.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Amy McCarthy is editor of Eater Dallas and Eater Houston.


José Andrés, the Accidental Humanitarian

As he sits in the dining room of the newly opened outpost of his much lauded Mediterranean eatery Zaytinya in a suburb of Dallas, the ever-racing mind of chef José Andrés is on Puerto Rico. “Puerto Rico is going to be okay,” Andrés says, “because they’re going to come away with a strong belief that they can overcome big obstacles.”

Andrés, of course, is referring to the island’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a storyline he’s become increasingly intertwined with as Puerto Rico works its way back toward normalcy. Since the hurricane hit in September, Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen have been on the front lines of global disaster relief.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, after getting a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by an earthquake in Haiti. In the ensuing years, Andrés has mobilized the organization to provide professional education to chefs in countries across the globe, build kitchens at underfunded schools, and teach food safety. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, he caught a flight to Dallas and drove the 250 miles to Space City to assist local chefs in a hunger relief effort that churned out tens of thousands of meals in the days following the storm.

Later, Andrés went to feed people in Florida after Hurricane Irma, and after the wildfires raged through the Napa Valley. But his most concentrated effort has been in Puerto Rico, where World Central Kitchen served as the primary food source for the island, churning out 3.5 million meals to date — with a full-time staff of just three people. (And that 3.5 million number is a low estimate, one that doesn’t count the 250,000 pounds of food Andrés brought when he landed.) While Andrés’s organization was doing this work, a single contractor was tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with getting 30 million meals to Puerto Rico, and granted a $156 million contract to get it done. Ultimately, that contractor only delivered 50,000 meals after creating a “logistical nightmare,” according to the New York Times.

In the midst of that chaos remains Andrés, whose background is in running restaurants, not providing large-scale disaster relief. Eater sat down with the chef to talk about Puerto Rico, the future of the island, and what’s next for the World Central Kitchen.

Is it still a struggle to get things in and out of Puerto Rico?

The great lesson of Puerto Rico is that the private sector has worked very well. I’m not an expert. but I saw firsthand FEMA, the military, the private sector working well. It took longer than some people liked, but the fuel and distance situation resolved quickly and fairly well.

If I was a water expert, I’d have ideas on what I would do differently. I would put in more infrastructure I would bring generators quicker. Water for me was one of the top problems on the island, so I would put more focus on bigger projects instead of trying to bring in bottles of water. The Pepsi plant and the beer plants activated, but mainly it was the Coke plant that was producing water and there were not enough hours in the day to produce more. People were afraid of running out. I would put more emphasis on disaster communication and in the water infrastructure on the island. That should have been resolved more quickly.

Talk about the logistics on the ground: How did the World Central Kitchen get food to so many people?

We opened an account, got cash, [but] some organizations were having processing problems with cards because there was no cell signal. The moment you move from San Juan, there was zero cell service: People couldn’t use food stamps, people couldn’t call to place orders, delivering food was impossible. Fresh food was impossible because there was no fuel for the generators. In the end, we placed our orders. We went by Sam’s Club. I felt guilty because Walmart gave us some money, they were very generous early on, but [a stipulation existed where we couldn’t spend it in any Walmart-owned stores]. But the only places where we didn’t have to wait in line was Sam’s Club. It was real money, and we had to spend it. We were like, “What the fuck, they can tell us this, but we need cheese and we need ham, and they have cheese and ham.”

How do you feel about the future of Puerto Rico?

I think Puerto Rico is going to have a great future. The people of Puerto Rico: It’s unbelievable how patient, how nice they were to each other, how supportive. We would go to communities and they would tell us, “We are okay, help these people in the mountains because nobody has helped them yet.” I’ve learned in my life [after lots of disaster relief experience], people more often than not don’t want our pity. They want our respect. They don’t want to take more than they need.

But we need to make it easier on Puerto Rico. We talk about colonies — I come from Spain, I know colonies. It’s unfair that we criticize Puerto Rico for being in debt but we have other states in America that are in debt too. They cannot compete in a free market because only American companies can deliver to them. If Puerto Rico is America — and I believe it is America and Puerto Ricans are Americans — this amounts to economic discrimination, and that’s unfair. We should not treat Puerto Rico any different than Hawaiʻi.

If there’s a natural disaster tomorrow, is WCK able to mobilize and go to that place immediately?

During the hurricane, we opened a school in Haiti, we had three chefs from the WCK chefs program teaching in Nicaragua. WCK only technically has three people on payroll. And none of them were day-to-day in Puerto Rico, because they had other projects. With three people on payroll, we’ve done 3.5 million meals. That’s not bad. The big thing is that we’ve got a lot of support, people are now looking at us.

When the next natural disaster happens, wherever that is, will World Central Kitchen be there?

Some days I wake up in the morning and [dream] I’m announcing that I’m retiring World Central Kitchen from relief, because we were not a relief organization. We were created because of what I saw in Haiti after the earthquake, but it was more long-term help than relief. You realize that the local organizations, the ones already on the ground, are more qualified to help because they’re there. They are the most capable ones.

In Puerto Rico one of the things I did was fly in some of my chefs from my company and we did an assessment, like in Houston. I needed a lot of chefs. I called [food service companies] Compass and Bon Appetit, and they were able to send me 12 chefs from the Compass network, all experts on volume. They came within 48 hours.

The teams allowed us to go from one restaurant to the next. At one point we had 21 kitchens going at the same time. On the big days, we reached 175,000 meals in one day. At one point we were doing 75,000 meals a day [just] from the main kitchen. We had three lines for sandwiches, three lines for hot food, and we maintained over 120,000 meals for a few weeks.

Did you see yourself as a humanitarian before Haiti? Do you now?

There is a quote: “Wherever there is a fight where hungry people will need to eat, I will be there.” I don’t know what I was drinking when I read that phase, but if one day I ever get a tattoo, it would probably be that phrase. I’ll do it on my forehead.

I like that phrase a lot. I’m going through a reckoning, not with who I am, but what I do. I am my wife, I am my daughters, I am my cooks, I am my chefs, I am my community. I think everybody should be saying “I am them.”

I am a pragmatic capitalist. I want to do well, but make sure that it is not at the expense of everyone else. I’m still going through the process of making that work. I want to believe that the guy who works with us has a good living. I want to believe that the people who came to you working as a dishwasher can become a head chef, I have a few of those. I have women that are sous chefs and they don’t want to be head chefs because they don’t want to. Because for them, it’s the right balance of family and work.

How can people like you who are in positions of power make the industry — and the kitchen — more friendly to women who want to be head chefs?

I know the president has been talking about that, but for me, with three daughters, I’m not going to barricade myself behind my daughters, but I want for them the moon and then some more. I’m very biased in that respect, but how to do it? I’m a guy that believes that we need to be providing the same opportunities to everybody. But humanity has always relied on women to be the ones who have the babies, that’s not something we can change. At least not yet. But then that follows everything else, and makes everything more difficult in the work environment for women.

Nobody’s perfect. This Christmas, in my company speech, I told them I knew these last four months had been tough for me and I raised my voice more than necessary. I told them when they see me doing it, to shout me down. I make sure that nobody crosses the line. If we all follow the rules of engagement, we can disagree socially, we can disagree politically, we can disagree with so many things.

We are as generous as the restaurant industry can be. We have full paid maternity leave, paternity leave for the fathers. It’s not huge, but some places don’t even offer it. On why there aren’t enough women as head chefs, [we should ask ourselves]: Are we doing enough? The kitchen is a hard place. Do we need to look at ways to make it more feasible and doable for women? Absolutely.

I see more younger women in kitchens now than I have ever before. The industry is changing. But I’m not the expert. We need to ask women what happens and what we can do to make the industry better for them. My CEO, for example, her husband is the one who takes care of the children. We should be asking my CEO those questions, not me. What’s happening now in the food industry with sexual harassment, you have more men in positions of power and they’re using it the wrong way. That’s every profession, every part of humanity, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen.

Would you ever consider running for office?

I can’t run for office! I left school when I was 14, I never graduated from anything. But I’m. no. Not everybody can lead. I see a lot of leaders out there. The young girl who helps an old woman walk with her farmers market shopping across the street, that’s a leader. There’s many leaders. But I think what we’re seeing is that people are looking for leaders who are trustworthy.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Amy McCarthy is editor of Eater Dallas and Eater Houston.