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José Andrés Says FEMA Kicked Him Out of Its Building

And other takeaways from his TEDx MidAtlantic talk

José Andrés
Photo: World Central Kitchen / Facebook
Monica Burton is the deputy editor of

Superstar chef José Andrés is credited with almost singlehandedly feeding Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The chef and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen served more meals than any other organization. Last month, he explained how in a talk for TEDx MidAtlantic, which is now available to watch in full on TED’s Facebook page.

On Twitter today, Andrés said he was “so bad and unprepared for a Ted talk,” but, he nonetheless delivered some quotable inspiration along with some choice words for FEMA. See below for the best bits:

On grappling with FEMA:

• “I went to FEMA. They kicked me out with eight armored guards and AK-47s. I told them I want 18 kitchens around the island. Guess what? Three days ago, we reached our 18th kitchen on Puerto Rico.”

• “Even FEMA, they were asking me, 'José, how are you able to get the food?' Simple — by calling and paying and getting."

On his strategy:

• “Let’s not plan, let’s not meet, let’s start cooking. And that's what we did. We started feeding the people of Puerto Rico — on a Monday!”

• “We began creating a movement — a movement that had a very simple idea that everybody could rally behind: Let’s feed the hungry.”

• “Twenty-five thousand meals became 50,000 meals became all of a sudden the biggest restaurant in the world. We were making close to 70,000 meals a day from one location alone.”

On how he got it done:

• “We began making food you could recognize. Not things that came from a faraway place in plastic bags that you open and you cannot even smell.”

• “We needed helicopters. We asked, we paid, and we got. We needed planes. We asked, we paid, and we got.”

• “We brought the first water purification system to the island of Vieques where we could be filtering one gallon per minute. All of a sudden, big problems become very simple, low hanging fruit solutions — only by doing, not planning and meeting in a very big building.”

• “The food trucks became our angels.”

On why he keeps showing up:

• “[The people of Puerto Rico] needed something else. They wanted to make sure that you, and you, and you, and you that you were caring. That we were sending the message that we are with you, give us time, we will fix this.”

TED [Facebook]