Just as Houston helped his city after Hurricane Katrina, Chef John Besh and his crew left New Orleans for Texas to provide meals for Hurricane Harvey evacuees.
For Chef John Besh and many other New Orleans residents, what's happening in Texas following Hurricane Harvey seems tragically familiar. With Harvey's timing near the 12 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, memories of what happened in New Orleans and the help that people in Houston offered the city, come back. And Besh and his team are attempting to reach out the same hand to the Lone Star State that was extended to his home city more than a decade ago.
His team, which includes chefs, friends, members of The John Besh Foundation and Besh's brother-in-law, Patrick Berrigan, packed up in New Orleans and drove to Texas loaded with supplies for barbecue pits, crawfish pots and all else needed for an initial plan to cook and serve 5,000 meals. "Administering hospitality in the wake of Hurricane Harvey has not even been a question," Chef Besh explained. "Regardless of the circumstances, it's times of trial that we as a group in the hospitality industry rise to the occasion to truly change lives through food and service."
Besh and his team anticipated the drive would be harrowing due to road closures and flooding, so they braced themselves. "Our business is all about obstacles and planning for as much as you can. It would be a tragedy to become a burden on those that you wish to serve. So, it's a matter of developing a mission and gearing up to achieve that: extra fuel, propane, tires for the cooking trailers, more water and ice than you could imagine, as well as tables, bleach, towels and carefully pre-planned dinners."
Their long drive began on Wednesday, August 30 and they made their first stop in the city of Orange, Texas on Thursday August 31 to prepare plates of red beans and rice, jambalaya, brisket, lasagna and pasta bolognese for evacuees. They managed to feed a crowd of 1200 people before having to evacuate themselves due to continued flooding.
They reached the city of Houston on Friday, September 1 to serve 3,500-first responders at NRG Stadium, joined by local bar owner and Houston-native, Alba Huerta, and chef Drake Leonards. With the help of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's team, they plan to press on to other areas based on the needs of the communities.
The overall response from the thousands of Houstonians they've met has been nothing short of inspirational. Exercising back the good will Houston once extended to New Orleans in a time of need, Chef Besh sees much of the "Houston spirit" still exemplified in many people they've met. "Humility and grace in the face of such despair. Industrious, proud, humble, and giving in spite of race, color or creed. There is a lot of 'golden rule' happening all over this town and surrounding areas. This recovery will take a long time and they all will need whatever support we all may give."
The John Besh Foundation is also hosting a fundraiser for hurricane relief on Monday, September 4 at 2702 Westeheimer Road in Houston. It will be updating the John Besh Foundation Instagram account with more details as they're available.