There's a reason he won The James Beard Humanitarian of the Year award.

By Rebecca Sheehan Caine
Updated October 19, 2018
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Days before Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida panhandle on October 10, World Central Kitchen (WCK) was already at ground zero. The nonprofit helmed by chef (and James Beard Humanitarian of the Year) José Andrés has a reputation for putting boots on the ground and food in the bellies of people affected by disaster. Learning from their experiences after Hurricane Florence, WCK chefs and volunteers arrived ahead of Michael to establish emergency kitchens, organize supplies, and develop their response plan.

Working from the Bay County Emergency Operations Center in Southport, the WCK team prepared hot meals for the local fire, police, National Guard, and other response units. After the storm left thousands of people displaced and millions without power, water, or reliable communication, Andrés and his team got to work feeding the panhandle. Their goal is to serve 300,000 meals.

Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Just five days after Hurricane Michael struck the Florida panhandle, WCK’s Chef Relief Team has served over 45,000 mealsto evacuee shelters, hard-hit communities, and emergency response teams," the nonprofit reported on its website. "With help from local emergency response agencies, we were also able to begin serving emergency shelters and communities, quickly scaling up to serve those most in need."

Andrés himself landed in Florida on Sunday, October 14, and, as usual, is documenting WCK's relief efforts on Twitter.

"Destruction here is everything you imagine and more," Andrés told the Washington Post. "But we do what we do, which is cooking, feeding, water, intelligence to make sure that everybody at least will have a hot plate of food."

In Mexico Beach and Panama City, two areas severely impacted by Michael, Andrés and his team set up an outdoor "paella operation" to feed hundreds of people. Paella, Andrés noted, is a complete meal that does not require a full kitchen to prepare.

The Spanish rice and seafood dish, he tweeted, "works fast and efficient to provide thousands of meals a day."

On top of that, the WCK delivered meals door-to-door in places like Callaway, a community near Panama City that still has little access to food and water.

Besides paella, WCK reports that they have served smoked BBQ pulled pork with a corn relish, lemon pepper pork chops with ginger garlic fried rice and Brussel sprouts, and homemade chili with fresh salad.

"As with all of our relief efforts, we prioritize serving high-quality meals with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables," the organization states.

As WCK’s operations were heating up—BAM! Andrés' friend and celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse arrived in Florida on October 13. Lagasse has special ties to northwest Florida—Emeril's Coastal Italian is located in Sandestin, 45 miles west of Panama City. Lagasse met up with Andrés and WCK on October 16.

"Returning home to the panhandle today," Emeril wrote on Twitter. "I have called this area home for some time now and seeing the destruction that my neighbors and community are faced with is devastating."