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José Andrés arrives in Austin to help with World Central Kitchen relief work

Matthew Odam
Austin 360
Chef José Andrés of World Central Kitchen thanks Debrico Chase, a volunteer with Black Women in Business, for his work in distributing food to the needy in the parking lot of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Manor. Black Women in Business has fed approximately 40,000 people since March due mostly to pandemic related needs.
World Central Kitchen co-founder chef José Andrés delivers meals from Sala & Betty and records a video with Rose Smith, founder of Black Women in Business to help spread the word about free meals.

It's often a mixed blessing when global icon José Andrés arrives in your area wearing one of his trademarked World Central Kitchen windbreakers or shirts. 

It means your community has likely suffered natural devastation. It also means that skilled, passionate people are organizing on the ground to aid in relief efforts. 

The D.C.-based chef founded the organization in 2010, and World Central Kitchen has since delivered tens of millions of meals to citizens around the world suffering food and water insecurity brought on by hurricanes, earthquakes, global pandemics and more. 

More:Austin food trucks, nonprofits serve up meals, water to residents recovering from Texas freeze

The WCK team mobilized in Austin and several other Texas cities last week to cook meals for people who experienced loss brought on by the historic winter storm that kept millions without water and power for days. The organization, working in tandem with Austin hospitality nonprofit Good Work Austin, delivered meals from 42 Austin restaurants to community organizations, frontline workers and community members. 

Andrés and WCK director of operations Tim Kilcoyne arrived Sunday night  in Austin and met with Good Work Austin and L'Oca d'Oro partners Adam Orman and chef Fiore Tedesco to spotlight the duo's help in bringing food relief to Austinites. On Monday, they picked up meals at Olamaie and delivered them to a community distribution point at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Manor. 

“The premise of World Central Kitchen is that we don’t have a plan; we adapt to the situation,” Andrés told the American-Statesman Monday while making a stop to see his former protégé, chef Jorge Hernández at the Carpenter Hotel in Zilker. 

More:Diplo donates Via 313 pizzas for Austin winter storm relief

In Austin that meant identifying restaurants that could operate and working with Good Work Austin to make sure that dozens of restaurants were paid to prepare and deliver meals throughout the area.

Andrés said that the situation on the ground in Austin and throughout Texas was exacerbated by the fact that there was not a strategic plan in place to empower professionals to prepare and deliver food and water to the community. 

“There is a lack of central command to maximize the power of everybody working together," Andrés said.

More:Matthew McConaughey organizing virtual fundraiser for Texas winter storm relief efforts

The Spanish chef believes that in the future, city and state government need to identify existing spaces such as school kitchens that can operate to feed a community and they need to make sure that they empower various experts across all fields. Finger pointing, he says, does not accomplish anything in times of crisis. But these moments should make us ask questions about how prepared we are and what we can do to help.

“Do we have the right management people? Do we have the right emergency people? Do we have the right resources for the response to the emergency?" Andrés said. "Government is everyone. When the government fails, we fail. It requires fire fighters, National Guard, police and individuals who want to lend their cars to bring water and food to hospitals. So we need to see in these emergency moments, it requires an entire village coming together strong as one.”

This is a developing story.