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Famous Chefs Help Feed Hungry, Support Closed Restaurants


In this March 31, 2020 photo made available by World Central Kitchen, Chef Jose Andres, right, and Nate Mook discuss meal distribution to first responders in Washington, DC.
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When Jose Andres first came to New York City, he was a young soldier in the Spanish navy. Many years later, he is an award-winning chef.

Andres now owns a large food business on the same New York street where he landed as a sailor. The famous chef recently announced plans to serve 40,000 meals to New Yorkers across the city, which is now the center of America’s COVID-19 epidemic.

Andres has several restaurants, including one with two Michelin awards, Somni. In 2010, he opened his not-for-profit World Central Kitchen to serve food to victims of disasters.

Since the coronavirus arrived in the U.S., his organization has served more than 750,000 meals in cities from Miami to Los Angeles, to Little Rock, Arkansas, to Fairfax, Virginia.

The operation works out of places like libraries and closed restaurants. It feeds medical teams, hospital workers, students and others who continue to work during the epidemic.

Sharon Holm, a volunteer from Food Rescue US, prepares cold cuts for sandwiches at Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster Restaurant during the new coronavirus pandemic, Monday, April 6, 2020, in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Sharon Holm, a volunteer from Food Rescue US, prepares cold cuts for sandwiches at Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster Restaurant during the new coronavirus pandemic, Monday, April 6, 2020, in the Overtown neighborhood of Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)


Andres has a list of important friends who are chefs around the world, including Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri and Marcus Samuelsson. Many started cooking professionally in the United States.

“I’m in debt to America. ... That’s the best I can give to America because America gave me a home. America gave me opportunity,” Andres told The Associated Press in a recent phone interview.

In New York City, he set up a restaurant to serve the Mount Sinai hospital in Central Park. In Harlem, he’s using Samuelsson’s well-known restaurant to feed families.

Samuelsson’s Miami restaurant closed, but he didn’t want to leave it empty. So he loaned it to World Central Kitchen. They are giving food to those who have lost their jobs because of the epidemic.

Even in crisis, these chefs aren’t giving away simple meals. At centers for old people in Washington, D.C., the food was complex and tasty.

Andres was among the first to close his restaurants. He wanted to show chefs around the world how to use their restaurants and workers to feed the hungry and those out of work.

“The operation is growing every day,” he said. “We want to put America to work…feeding America.”

Volunteer Karla Hoyos hands out meals from the Red Rooster Overtown restaurant during the new coronavirus pandemic in Miami, March 30, 2020. Chef Marcus Samuelsson loaned his as-yet-unopened Red Rooster Overtown restaurant to chef Jose Andres' staff.
Volunteer Karla Hoyos hands out meals from the Red Rooster Overtown restaurant during the new coronavirus pandemic in Miami, March 30, 2020. Chef Marcus Samuelsson loaned his as-yet-unopened Red Rooster Overtown restaurant to chef Jose Andres' staff.


In California, Fieri is ready with his kitchen and team. “Guy is ready to go,” Andres said. “This is like war. You need to have troops ready for action.”

Fieri compared his longtime friendship with Andres and other famous chefs to playing with a group of musicians.

“When you hang out with… Jose Andres, all you want to do is go bigger, go better,” said Fieri. Last year, he cooked with Andres to feed victims of the deadly California wildfires.

In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, Fieri bought $50,000 in gift cards to support local restaurants. He asked many of the chiefs of big food companies to donate money to his organization.

His Restaurant Employee Relief Fund quickly raised $10 million. It has a goal of raising $100 million and giving $500 to restaurant workers without jobs. The first payments went out last week.

Rachael Ray announced a $4 million donation from her two assistance organizations. Half of the money will go to food programs, including World Central Kitchen. The other half will support animal rescue groups.

“We are not a disaster relief fund… but that’s what we’ve become,” she told the AP in a phone interview.

She supports the efforts of Jose Andres.

“I love Jose. I’m so devoted to him,” Ray said from her home in New York state.

I'm Dorothy Gundy.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.

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Words in This Story

chef – n. one who cooks professionally

epidemic – n. an illness that is transmitted from one person to another

kitchen - n. the room where food is made

hang out - phr v. to spend time together

relief – n. assistance or aid

devote – v. to be loyal to

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