José Andrés project to pay to reopen kitchens at more than 400 restaurants nationwide

Celebrity chef José Andrés, who is known for his philanthropic work providing meals to communities in the wake of natural disasters, launched a new initiative to reopen more than 400 restaurants nationwide to produce 1 million meals during the coronavirus pandemic.

World Central Kitchen’s (WCK) Chefs for America relief operation aims to help laid-off employees by putting them back to work making meals for communities in need.

“This is only a drop in the water,” Andrés said in a phone interview with The Washington Post.

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WCK will reportedly pay restaurant owners $10 to $20 per meal and guarantee to cover hundreds of meals a day for a fixed period. Restaurateurs can then use those funds to rehire staff and purchased ingredients.

The restaurants can go back to operating as normal, with WCK handling logistics, according to the outlet.

Nate Mook, chief executive of WCK, told the Post that the independent restaurant industry will need to get back to work without anticipating COVID-19 relief from the federal government.

“The only thing that’s really going to save the system is the system going back to work,” Mook said.“The restaurants going back to work. The staff going back, getting a paycheck. The restaurants buying from the suppliers that are also impacted by this. You got to get the whole machine going again because you can’t just have these Band-Aid solutions.”

According to a recent surveyrestaurants have laid off an average of 91 percent of their hourly workforce and nearly 70 percent of their salaried employees.

Andrés himself closed his D.C. restaurants last month and encouraged others to do the same for the health of his employees and guests. Those restaurants have been converted to community kitchens with take-out windows for people to pick up food. 

WCK has already hired workers to provide coronavirus relief in 65 U.S. cities as well as seven cities in Spain. These workers prepare meals for health care workers and first responders. 

They have also coordinated with delivery services like Uber Eats and Postmates to bring hot meals to homeless people, low-income families and children without access to school meals and seniors.

Andrés’s organization was deployed in February to feed passengers who were quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was docked in Yokohama, Japan, after guests began contracting the virus.