When Category 4 Hurricane Ian made its zigzag path toward South Florida just a few weeks ago, we all knew it was coming, but we just didn’t know where it would land exactly.
Chef Adrienne Gang, who you might recognize from season 1 of Bravo’s Below Deck, was ready to go. When the storm seemed likely to miss Tampa, Gang offered up a room for anyone who needed a place to stay, plus her knives if anyone was looking for cooking help. She was then connected to World Central Kitchen (WCK), which was founded in 2010 by Chef José Andrés and moves into areas in need of help after natural disasters or prolonged humanitarian crisis. At the moment, WCK is serving meals in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which caused catastrophic damage to parts of Florida’s west coast, namely Fort Myers and surrounding areas, when it made landfall on September 28.
Gang signed up and was then slotted into the schedule. “It’s an incredible organization. I am so impressed with everything, and I was thrilled to be doing it,” she says. “It's such a break from what I’m used to. Being able to cater to people on yachts on their vacations is satisfying in its own way. This is the complete polar opposite of that.”
Gang highlights that WCK is currently working across the globe on several activations. As a chef, she has been helping to cook several hot meals each day, which are then distributed throughout the seven counties WCK is currently serving. Gang mentioned that they cooked about 7,500 meals the day before we spoke, with a goal of reaching 15,000 meals per day in their five paella pans. They cook to scale, meaning they cook as much as they can in the time they have based on perceived need. There’s also a second kitchen where volunteers make salads and sandwiches.
“The excitement on people’s faces, period, is amazing,” she says. “But being able to be a part of something where you can tell you’re making a difference. Those people are coming to us because they need it. Because there are still people without running water, there are still people without power, there are still people without a roof.”
While it’s tough to see all the damage, Gang highlights what she calls the silver lining — “Seeing how the entire community comes together to help each other and seeing the massive difference that World Central Kitchen makes in a situation like this.”
You can also help however you’re able. You can either donate money — you can even share where you’d like your donation to go — or your time. WCK is always looking for volunteers, and not just chefs — you can sign up for other jobs, like distribution. As Gang says, if you have time between jobs, why not make a difference in a community that really needs it?