SPOKANE, Wash. – More than a month after Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, water and electricity are still in scarce supply.
While only about 23 percent of the island has power, a chef back in the Inland Northwest is working to help Puerto Ricans rebuild.
Award-winning chef, Jeremy Hansen said he is fixated on the people living in the small American territory.
"I wake up and I'm like how can I like go to the restaurant and do all of these things, create menus and just kind of forget about what's going on?” he said. “And I just can't do it right now."
Puerto Rico was still recovering from Hurricane Irma on September 7, when two weeks later, Hurricane Maria barreled through with a direct hit to the island.
About 90 percent of the homes on the island were damaged or destroyed, FEMA said, and the vast majority of people still do not have power.
FEMA reported only about 400 miles of roads open, out of more than 5,000 miles of roads in the territory.
“I gotta get down there and do something,” Hansen said. “We can't just let them sit there and rot, you know."
Hansen owns Sante, Inland Pacific Kitchen, Hogwash Whiskey Den, Common Crumb Bakery, and Biscuit Wizard all in the Spokane area.
The hurricane rendered masses of people homeless and hungry, and Hansen said he has the skills to help.
“I have a food skill that I can cook, I can stand on my feet 15 hours a day and pump out food all day long,” he explained.
So Hansen and two friends have decided to do just that.
Delta Airlines agreed to sponsor their travel from Spokane to Puerto Rico, and they are holding a fundraising dinner Friday. Local suppliers have donated the food and drink for a Puerto Rican family-style steak dinner.
The three will work with celebrity chef Jose Andreas when they get there.
Andreas set up his nonprofit World Central Kitchen in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. Since Maria, they have served more than one million meals in more than 60 communities. They managed to get the food to far flung places by boat, helicopter and food trucks.
Chef Hansen and his Spokane team will spend most of November in Puerto Rico.
His contact at World Central Kitchen is anxiously awaiting the help.
"He's so happy and excited for us to come down and help because he's like, 'We need it. We need people,’” Hansen said. "He's like, 'Look, wherever you want to be wherever you want to jump in we could use all the help in the world right now.'"
Hansen said they told him to come ready to cook for the masses, because the need is overwhelming.
“A mess. It's just a mess and they're doing the best they can and they're even struggling to be happy with what they're doing,” Hansen said.
He said he knows he can’t fix what is happening in Puerto Rico, and admits he is a little nervous about the suffering he might see. But Hansen said he also knows he has to help.
"As long as I get in a kitchen and sit there all day and feed people and cook and do whatever I got to do... that's really all I care about,” he said.
Tickets for the Friday fundraiser are a suggested donation of $100 and you can make reservations by calling (509)703-7907.
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