The chef's operation in the Coliseo de Puerto Rico is shutting down today.
Jose Andres
Credit: Courtesy of Restaurant Paellas Y Algo Más

After feeding more than a million people in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, José Andrés and World Central Kitchen have decided to reduce their presence on the island, in order to “serve communities in the greatest need,” according to a statement from the non-profit organization.

In this phase of the #ChefsForPuertoRico campaign, World Central Kitchen will be maintaining “satellite kitchens” in the municipalities of Ponce, Vieques, Humacao and Naguabo. However, the main cooking operation that the World Central Kitchen has been running in the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan, a huge entertainment stadium where Andrés and his team have been cooking up sandwiches, paella, and other dishes for thousands of people per day, will be shutting down today.

“We are very happy with what we have accomplished in Puerto Rico. After serving almost two million meals, #ChefsforPuertoRico will continue meeting the needs of the American citizens who need the most help in Puerto Rico,” said Andrés, who is the chairman and founder of World Central Kitchen.

Andrés now wants to shift his focus away from “mass producing and distributing free food that could swamp an emerging economy in these fragile, early stages of recovery,” to a more “targeted” approach. He’ll be teaming up with a crew of chefs in the area, including Ventura Vivoni of Restaurante Vida Ventura; Chef Eva Bolivar of Restaurante Bili and Chef Carlos Perez of El Blok in Vieques; and Chef Kalych Padro at an Ejida in Humacao, to continue to serve those people living in the most at-risk areas.

“We need to be smart about what we all do now,” Andrés added. “We must not hurt the small restaurants that feed the people at a much lower cost.”

World Central has been able to set up 18 kitchens in all 78 of Puerto Rico’s municipalities since arriving on the island on September 25. The organization also collaborated with ASORE, Puerto Rico’s association, which is now calling for more restaurants to open and serve the public, in order to help the island territory’s economy recover.

“We can’t just bring in tons and tons of free food and water because the local economy will suffer worse than from the impact from Maria,” said Ramon Léal, president of ASORE.

Andrés is now calling on “the federal government and leading NGO relief groups,” to pick up where he left off.