"We became all of a sudden the biggest restaurant in the world."
In October 2017, José Andrés gave a TED Talk about his post-Hurricane Maria relief work in Puerto Rico, where he served over three million meals after the September storm devastated the island. That TED Talk, which was just posted online, illuminates the key lessons we can learn from Andrés and his approach to storm relief—and if those lessons can be distilled into one word, it's "urgency."
Andrés explains how the urgency of the situation — millions of people needed to be fed, the majority without access to clean water or electricity — made the task at hand incredibly simple. When people asked him, "José, how were you able to get the food," he responded: "Simple. By calling and paying and getting." While large organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross were planning and meeting in "big buildings," Andrés was mobilizing, and tapping into the resources of the hundreds of restaurants and chefs on the island who were eager to help make something happen. He got on a plane and texted several local chefs, including José Enrique, to get started cooking immediately.
"We cannot be planning how to give aid a month from now. We need to be ready to give aid the second after something happens," Andrés said. "We had a simple problem that had a simple solution. This was not a far-away country … this was American soil. A beautiful place called Puerto Rico. With thousands of restaurants and people willing to help."
Watch the full talk here:
Puerto Rico isn't the only place to receive Andrés' help this year after disaster. World Central Kitchen and L.A. Kitchen recently teamed up to feed victims of California wildfires. WCK, which was launched after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, also showed up in Houston last year to feed victims of Hurricane Harvey.
On April 25, Andrés' was recognized at the City Harvest gala for his work with World Central Kitchen and #ChefsforPuertoRico. He was also named Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.