Chef José Andrés with relief workers in Puerto Rico during his 2017 #ChefsForPuertoRico campaign. Photo: José Andrés

By Adrian Carrasquillo
6 November 2017

(BuzzFeed) – Celebrity chef José Andrés has helped cook and deliver 2.2 million meals in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria flattened the island, at one point cranking out 150,000 meals a day. But while his effort has been loudly praised across the country, the Trump administration, which awarded him two contracts through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been curiously quiet on his efforts as they wound down.

That's in part because the administration, which has had a contentious relationship with Andrés, sees a different picture.

An official with FEMA told BuzzFeed News the agency has been disappointed by Andrés' public comments about the paralysis of bureaucracy and pace of recovery. Andrés, the official said, is a "colorful guy who gets a lot of exposure" and "a businessman looking for stuff to promote his business."

"He was very critical of us publicly and we were disappointed he took that approach," said Marty Bahamonde, director of the FEMA disaster operations division. "We had a good working relationship, and we paid him a lot of money to do that work. It wasn’t volunteer work — so we were disappointed in some of his public comments." […]

In an hour-long interview, the Spanish restauranteur took pains to stress that his experience in Puerto Rico was largely positive, and that it filled him and island residents with hope. And he underlined how much respect he had for government officials working on Puerto Rico, from FEMA to the military.

But asked to respond to FEMA's comments about him, Andrés — who left the island after his first chaotic 11 days when he lost 25 pounds — laughed in frustration and paused to measure his words.

"For them to say I was a businessman trying to make a buck, whoever said that should be very ashamed of themselves," Andrés told BuzzFeed News.

This is not Andrés' first public disagreement with the new leadership in Washington. This spring, Andrés and the Trump organization settled a lawsuit stemming from Andrés' decision to pull out of a restaurant deal from President Trump's new DC hotel. At the time, Andrés said he broke his agreement because Trump's campaign comments calling Mexicans drug-dealers and rapists made it "very difficult" to hire staff, draw customers, and raise capital. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

But what FEMA needs now, Andrés argued, is more businessmen with good hearts and brains to do what needs to be done without so much planning. "I didn't put the word 'emergency' in FEMA. They need to ask themselves what's the definition of 'emergency.' The definition of that to me is feeding people now." [more]

Chef José Andrés And The Trump Administration Are Fighting Over Puerto Rico


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