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Students at the World Central Kitchen in Port-Au-Prince
Photograph: Patrice Douge courtesy of World Central Kitchen

Chefs around the world rally to support survivors in Haiti

Following a massive earthquake in Haiti, culinary leaders throughout the diaspora are mobilizing quickly. Here’s how you can help, too.

Written by
Audarshia Townsend
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Stephan Berrouet-Durand knows all too well how dire the situation is in Haiti right now. The veteran chef and Haitian native who splits his time in south Florida was living in Port-au-Prince when a devastating, 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the capital city in 2010, killing more than 200,000 people. He was also in Haiti in 2016 when Hurricane Matthew struck, claiming an estimated 546 lives and causing nearly $2 million in damages.

This latest blow, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, struck south Haiti on August 14, resulting in more than 1,900 deaths and leaving more than 6,000 others injured. Complicating matters further, heavy rains brought on by Hurricane Grace are only hampering rescue work. 

None of that stopped Berrouet-Durand from springing into action as soon as he heard news of the earthquake. As the founder of Haitian Culinary Alliance Global – an organization that unites culinary professionals of Haitian descent – his vast network was ready to help, too. Within 24 hours, the group had people on the ground feeding survivors.

‘We cooked 3,000 meals for anyone who needed food,’ says Berrouet-Durand, adding that it’s important to him that all supplies are sourced locally to support the economy. He stocks up on oversized bags of rice, grits, and yellow cornmeal, as well as chicken – all nourishing ingredients that are readily available and inexpensive. 

‘We already had a plan in place because when there was Hurricane Matthew six years ago, we were on the ground with meals for the population in its aftermath,’ he says. ‘We had a bunch of volunteers and culinary students with us, and we spent three months on the ground cooking hot meals.’

That was when Haitian Culinary Alliance Global first collaborated with famed chef and humanitarian José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen (WCK), the nonprofit organization committed to feeding people during natural disasters and difficult times. Now, the two groups are set to work together again – a move that will expand their reach and level Berrouet-Durand’s out-of-pocket expenses, which average $1,500 a day for 3,000 meals.

‘We are not raising money for anything else,’ Berrouet-Durand explains. ‘The more supplies we can buy, the better of a job we will be able to do.’

World Central Kitchen’s connection to Haiti came long before its collaboration with Haitian Culinary Alliance Global, with Andrés founding the organization in 2010 to help feed survivors after the earthquake. Additionally, in 2017, WCK built and opened Écoles des Chefs, a culinary school in Port-au-Prince. The school’s students have been on the frontlines feeding survivors since this latest earthquake, serving traditional Haitian rice – made with locally sourced onions, garlic, scotch bonnets, butter and tomato paste – topped with chicken and vegetable stew.

‘The relief team will be delivering meals to hospitals, emergency crews and families impacted by the earthquake,’ writes a WCK spokesperson in a statement. ‘To reach the affected areas in the south of Haiti, WCK will be transporting hot plates via helicopter or plane – whatever it takes.’

On social media, prominent Haitian chefs and other notables throughout the diaspora are using their platforms to spread the word on how to help. Most importantly, they’re encouraging other Haitians to send money to their families living in Haiti so they can buy medical supplies for the general hospital in Port-au-Prince.

Looking to help but don’t know where to start? You can donate directly to Haitian Culinary Alliance Global or World Central Kitchen with just a few clicks. Additionally, the Ayiti Community Trust is raising funds to support local Haitian-led organizations, while Haiti Air Ambulance is actively backing emergency rescue efforts.

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