WASHINGTON — Celebrity chef Jose Andres has had a lot on his plate lately, but it has nothing to do with his D.C.-area restaurants.
Andres arrived in Puerto Rico in September, five days after Hurricane Maria, to help feed victims. His non-profit World Central Kitchen has served more than 3 million warm meals and sandwiches — more than any other agency, including the Red Cross or Salvation Army.
“It’s a very simple thing when you’re a cook,” Andres told CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
“When you’re hungry, you gather the food, you gather your helpers, you begin cooking, and then you start feeding people.”
Andres developed a network of kitchens and volunteers across the island, despite the lack of electricity and other utilities.
He said Americans in Puerto Rico should be receiving a plate of hot food, even in the wake of a disaster, rather than bagged military field rations, known as Meals Ready to Eat or MRE.
“That’s not too much to ask, in America,” Andres said. “MREs are very expensive for the American taxpayer — a hot meal is cheaper, what people really need and want, and they feel that you are caring for them.”
Andres said he was frustrated by the red tape surrounding dealings with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. His group received two short term contracts, worth $11 million, but were denied a longer-term contract.
“Emergency in food means one thing. People are hungry. And when you’re hungry, it’s today,” Andres said.
With hungry survivors in Puerto Rico, Andres said his group focused on feeding people, rather than strategizing.
“We didn’t plan, we didn’t meet, we began cooking and began delivering food to the people in need in Puerto Rico,” said Andres. “We need to make sure that next time, we are not negotiating contracts, and the federal government is ready to do what they’re supposed to do, next time something like this happens.”