When disaster strikes, chefs are often on the frontlines of crisis, cooking and serving people in immediate need. Last year, World Central Kitchen, the disaster relief nonprofit founded by Chef José Andrés, activated in response to 13 disasters from the US-Mexico border to the beaches of Indonesia. The organization engages local chefs and producers to feed the hungry and provide ongoing support to help communities sustain themselves in the long term.
OpenTable is proud to have presented a “Feeding the World” dinner, hosted by Andrés and showcasing dishes from around the globe, at this month’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival. For every ticket purchased, we will make a $10 donation to World Central Kitchen.
Here, we invite you to get involved, too. Read our Q&A with the World Central Kitchen team to learn how they mobilize resources, nurture communities in need, and create connections and infrastructure for healthy food systems in the years to come. Learn about volunteer opportunities here.
First of all, tell us about the work you’re doing in Australia right now. What’s the most urgent need, and how is the team addressing it?
A WCK team has been on the ground in Australia since about January 4th, working with and within hard-hit communities to assess what people and local businesses really need. In many small communities in Victoria and New South Wales, the town’s economy of small cafes and restaurants, already really dependent on a very short, two-month tourist season, have collapsed. We’ve not only partnered with local restaurants to cook from their kitchens and deliver hot meals to firefighters and community members, but have also piloted a program called Feel Good Feeds that gives neighbors a punch card to use at their favorite local spots, for which World Central Kitchen foots the bill. Here are two stories about our ongoing work in Australia.
– Sam Bloch, Director of Field Operations
What responsibility or opportunity do chefs have to communities in need after a crisis? How would you encourage other chefs to help?
Chefs and the hospitality community usually see feeding and taking care of people as not just their work but as a huge part of their lives and personalities – if their community is in crisis, the first thing they think to do is to start cooking. When World Central Kitchen deploys to help a community in crisis, one of the very first things we do is connect with local chefs to assess need and available resources and make a plan to get people cooking and serving. Chefs have these answers and know their communities and how to marshal resources better than most anyone. World Central Kitchen has built a network of chefs around the world who stand ready to help their communities when needed. We’re also working on developing a curriculum in disaster-relief cooking that will hopefully be part of more and more chefs’ overall training, so every chef will have this very specific base of knowledge and readiness…just in case.
– Tim Kilcoyne, Director of Chef Operations
Food can be a source of both nourishment and comfort in a crisis, as you have said. What kinds of dishes do you try to serve to communities in need, and what are the logistics or challenges of getting fresh, locally sourced foods to those communities?
All the meals we serve will always be fresh and healthy, but we work closely with the local community to make sure we’re cooking food that people love, meals they may not be able to make or buy for themselves during the crisis. A good example of this recently was fire engine, a corned beef dish traditionally eaten on Sundays in The Bahamas. We mobilized our kitchens across all three islands to make it every Sunday! Logistically, we attack the problem of sourcing from the inside out and seek local vendors, grocers, and suppliers to augment and, if possible, take the place of large wholesale vendors so we can adhere to our mission of helping local economies always. If the disaster has done enough damage to close everything down, we will be sure to work with local providers to get them back online and purchase from them when they do.
– Josh Phelps, Relief Operations Manager [Read more…]