World Central Kitchen, the culinary nonprofit run by chef José Andrés, is helping feed Texas residents impacted by the winter storm, during a time when people are still without power or access to water or even clean water. As soon as the group landed in the city on Thursday, it connected with local group Good Work Austin. Together, the organizations arranged restaurants to cook and deliver meals to pinpointed places in need of food, like warming shelters and hospitals.
One of the first restaurants to participate in the Texas relief mission is Zilker hotel restaurant Carpenters Hall. The connection made sense since the hotel restaurant is led by culinary director Jorge Hernández, who has worked under Andrés and considers the chef a mentor.
Hernández, the restaurant’s head chef Lou Perella, and the rest of the team were already spending the week cooking meals for the hotel’s guests — even during periods of lost power. They expanded to make and deliver meals through World Central/Good Work Austin starting on Wednesday night. The next day, they cooked picadillo and potato stews for Sunrise Community Church.
“It seems like every chef or restaurant group in town realized, ‘Hey, we have to do this,’” says Hernández. “The mentality that José had from the beginning was, ‘Okay, well, we don’t know how to do a ton of things to fix everything, but we know how to cook, so at least at least we can do that,’” he continues. “It is such a tight-knit chef community.”
Many other Austin restaurants also joined the effort. New American restaurant Sala & Betty made meals for refugee shelter Casa Marianella (beef stroganoff, toast, and green beans) and Dell Children’s Medical Center (vegetable fried rice with tofu or pork, with the help of cafe the Steeping Room) on Friday.
Hernández told Eater that chefs Kevin Fink and Tavel Bristol-Joseph of Emmer & Rye cooked up 1,200 meals on Thursday, and sent 600 more meals to the Palmer Event Center, which is functioning as a warming center. That same day, Asian fusion mini-chain Chi’lantro provided meals to soup kitchen and shelter Angel House. Japanese noodle shop Ramen Tatsu-ya delivered meals to Mary Lee Foundation Community Center. Gastropub Drink.Well is spending the weekend, preparing and delivering dinners for the warming center at Reilly Elementary School, another warming center.
None of these relief efforts would’ve been possible if not for systems already set in place by Good Work Austin. The organization had already been feeding agencies and organizations during the pandemic, from the Austin Independent School District to Austin Public Health to El Buen Samaritano.
“How many times have we had some sort of emergency food response here in the last couple of years?” asks Adam Orman, a founding member of the group and the co-owner of L’Oca d’Oro. “This is a little tiny step forward that has made some of the food response easier.”
Those efforts were furthered with the help of organizations like Austin Food & Wine Alliance and individuals like local blogger Jane Ko and publicists Cara Caulkins and Chelsea McCullough, as well as aid from corporate sponsors.
Texas isn’t new territory for World Central Kitchen. Its disaster relief efforts brought the nonprofit to Houston during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Beaumont during Hurricane Laura in 2020. Likewise, this isn’t the first time World Central Kitchen has worked with Good Work Austin. The global group sponsored Good Work’s Safe Table initiative, which provided food to pantries aimed at helping seniors who lacked food access.