News & Opinion | May 26, 2018 5:00 am

Hurricane Maria Tore Apart this Chef’s Restaurant, But He Kept Cooking

Eight months after the storm, chef Jose Enrique is still feeding thousands of hungry Puerto Ricans.

Chef Jose Enrique with guests at A Dinner With Jose Enrique And Jamie Bissonnette, part of the Bank Of America Dinner Series during Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by FOOD & WINE at Hotel Plaza Athenee on October 16, 2015 in New York City.  (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
Chef Jose Enrique with guests at A Dinner With Jose Enrique And Jamie Bissonnette, part of the Bank Of America Dinner Series during Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival presented by FOOD & WINE at Hotel Plaza Athenee on October 16, 2015 in New York City. (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for NYCWFF)
Getty Images for NYCWFF

Last summer was a double whammy for the people of Puerto Rico. First came Hurricane Irma, which left people without power and reliant on whatever food they stored. Then, just week later, came Maria, a Category 5 storm that destroyed the country, leaving millions without shelter, power, or food. Eight months later, buildings are still covered with tarps and whole communities remain without electricity or running water. Chef Jose Enrique lost the roof and windows of his restaurant in the storm, but he is not letting that stop him from feeding the people of San Juan.

“I called all my friends and family like, ‘Dude, stop by, I’ve got food. You can eat and take some home,’” he said, according to Esquire. He invited the whole community in, and then, two days later, celebrity chef José Andrés of World Central Kitchen called and said he was coming down. Andrés set up shop at Enrique’s and the duo started feeding more and more people.

Enrique realized after that first day that they had served 3,000 meals. The next day they served 7,000, then 14,000. The operation grew to 20,000 meals a day, and it outgrew the space they were in. They moved to a better space, and then Enrique started working on getting his restaurant reopened so he and his employees’ lives could get back on track. But then, the generator blew hours before he planned to reopen, and a 50-day period of powerlessness began. It was enough to make him crazy, he told Esquire, but he is back up and running.