Thousands of Hurricane Maria survivors will get their Thanksgiving meal for free this year, courtesy of a celebrity chef and frequent critic of Donald Trump who spent his holiday cooking up hot meals in Puerto Rico.
Chef Jose Andrés set a goal of feeding 40,000 residents of the island, which was decimated by the hurricane months ago, according to his Twitter account.
“Today we cooked and delivered 6,744 full turkey dinners from one #ChefsForPuertoRico kitchenas we gear up to prepare for and serve 40,000 who need and deserve a hot meal this Thanksgiving," he tweeted. "We could not & would not do this without all of you.”
The project required 12,000 turkey breasts and 100 whole turkeys, Mr Andrés added later.
The Michelin-starred chef and Spanish immigrant has already set up the island's biggest network of kitchens, supply chains, and delivery services via his non-profit disaster relief organization, World Central Kitchen. By the end of October, he had served more than 2.2m meals to hurricane survivors – more than the Red Cross, Salvation Army, or any government entity, according to the New York Times.
“We only came here to try to help a few thousand because nobody had a plan to feed Puerto Rico, and we opened the biggest restaurant in the world in a week,” Mr Andrés told the Times. "That’s how crazy this is.”
Hurricane Maria knocked out power to almost all of the island in September, and the majority of residents are still without power. Mr Andrés recently said he would try to continue feeding Puerto Ricans in need through Christmas.
When he isn’t cooking, the 48-year-old chef – who owns more than a dozen restaurants in the US – spends much of his time taking on the US President.
Mr Andrés pulled out of a restaurant deal with the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC in 2015, after Mr Trump made disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants. The Trump organisation sued Mr Andrés for breach of contract, but the chef counter-sued, saying Mr Trump’s comments had hurt his business. The Trump organisation settled with Mr Andrés in April for an undisclosed sum.
Mr Andrés has been unapologetic in his critiques of Mr Trump, at one point tweeting that hell was “too good” for the President. After Hurricane Maria struck, he directed his anger toward the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which he accused of being "the most inefficient place on earth."
“We are feeding the National Guard because they need hot meals and proud of it but Federal Goverment will not help us.........?” he tweeted in October.
The emergency management agency shot back in a statement to Buzzfeed, saying they were “disappointed” in Mr Andrés’s approach.
“We had a good working relationship, and we paid him a lot of money to do that work,” Marty Bahamonde, director of the FEMA disaster operations division, said. “It wasn’t volunteer work — so we were disappointed in some of his public comments.”
Mr Andrés is not alone in his critiques, however. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz has also taken issue with the federal government's response to the hurricane, telling Mr Trump and other officials that the island needs more support. At a press conference earlier this month, Ms Cruz said the situation in Puerto Rico remains one of life or death.
“Mr. Trump, do your job," she said. "Lives are at stake. This is not about politics. This is not about your ego. This is about the people of Puerto Rico and the people of the US [Virgin Islands].”