Plus, actor Russell Crowe made a major donation to one of Anthony Bourdain's favorite restaurants in the city.

By Jelisa Castrodale
August 14, 2020
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Less than a day after a massive deadly explosion rocked Beirut, Lebanon on August 4, chef José Andrés' charitable nonprofit World Central Kitchen had already sent a team to the city, led by its director of field operations, Sam Bloch. After just 24 hours in the city, World Central Kitchen had joined forces with celebrated chef and humanitarian Kamal Mouzawak to deliver more than 800 meals to hospitals, first responders, and isolated senior residents.

Russell Crowe donates to Le Chef restaurant in Beirut
Le Chef restaurant in Beirut, Lebanon on August 14, 2020.
| Credit: Anadolu Agency / Contributor/Getty Images

"On our first day, the team prepared hummus sandwiches and Molokhia, a traditional Sunday meal that reminds everyone who knows it of home," WCK wrote in its first report from the capital city. "Molokhia is made with chicken or other meat, and a leafy green called nalta jute with a healthy amount of garlic! Additionally, the team prepared kefta sandwiches, made with yellow onions, sumac, parsley, and hummus."

The organization has significantly expanded its operation in the past week-plus. Its volunteers are now working in 10 kitchens—including some inside local restaurants—to prep and deliver more than 10,000 fresh meals every day. “We have all the restaurants around ground zero, so we are covering all the needs from every angle,” Andrés said on Thursday. "This is a big city [...] and we make sure we bring the restaurants close to where the need is. Many of this food is going to go to some hospitals, Red Cross, etc. I think we are going to be stabilizing around 10,000 meals a day, if we need to go up [above that number] we will, that's what we do."

In the wake of the destruction, chefs and restaurateurs are also faced with the daunting task of trying to rebuild their damaged businesses. Yesterday, a GoFundMe campaign was launched for Le Chef, a 53-year-old Gemmayze restaurant that became a fast favorite of late chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain.

"[Chef Charbel Bassil's] infamous 'Welcoooome,' and the restaurant's warm food and even warmer hospitality have been a constant source of comfort for so many over the years," the fundraiser's description explains. "Anthony Bourdain, who stopped by Le Chef on both of his visits to Beirut, described it as 'a legendary spot, famed for its simple, straightforward, home-style classics.'"

The organizers wrote that all donations would be used to reconnect Le Chef's electricity, fix broken windows, and replace the refrigerator and stove that were damaged by the blast. Its original goal was set at $13,000 and, as NBC News reported, one generous donation came from someone with a familiar-sounding name.

Journalist Richard Hall, who co-launched the GoFundMe, mentioned a $5,000 contribution from "Russell Crowe" on Twitter, adding that he didn't know if it was "the Russell Crowe." It was.

"[The donation was] on behalf of Anthony Bourdain," the Russell Crowe tweeted. "I thought that he would have probably done so if he was still around. I wish you and LeChef the best and hope things can be put back together soon."

If you would like to donate to World Central Kitchen's ongoing efforts in Beirut, you can make either a one-time or a recurring contribution on its website. In addition, you can also give directly to the Lebanese Red Cross.