Local Chefs Take to Harvey-Battered Victoria, Rockport to Cook Up Aid

click to enlarge CHEFS COOPERATIVES
Chefs Cooperatives

Harvey left San Antonio mostly unscathed. Though the city braced for a major natural disaster, the storm system instead devastated parts of Rockport, Victoria, and Houston. But a group of local chefs wasn't going to sit around and watch reports come in.

Chef Cooperatives, a band of chefs that formed in 2013, left for Victoria on Sunday with a stash of supplies to help a fellow chef in need, James T. Canter, who's been a member of the Cooperative since its inception.

According to Stephen Paprocki, owner of Texas Black Gold Garlic, the team is in Victoria in shifts as their schedules allow.

"Every day is different, not everyone can take off every day," Paprocki said.

That means Jeff White of Boiler House and Chris Cook of Farm II Fork Catering drove to Victoria on Monday, helped make 6,000 meals and drove back to work Tuesday morning. On Tuesday morning, Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria, The Fruteria and El Machito showed up to help with a crew of four in tow.

Canter, who opened Guerrilla Gourmet on the first floor of the Victoria Advocate, told the publication "I just started cooking, and I haven't stopped."

And the menu varies. As one of the few buildings in town with electricity and running water, Canter and co. are seeing just about everyone walk through their doors. Meals have varied from prime rib to breaded fish (freshly donated from a local fisherman), to kolaches to crab risotto and homemade sausages. Barbacoa was on deck for Wednesday morning per chef Tatu Herrera's social feed. The crew was also joined by Victoria Benavides de Ulloa of The Good Kind, who helped secure a 400 pounds of beef donated by Peeler Ranch.

Those who line up for meals are asked to pay what they can, but a robust GoFundMe campaign surpassed an initial goal of $10,000 by more then $7,000 in just over two days. You can donate to the cause here.

Paprocki will stay through Thursday, and conditions have already improved, if slightly.

"Today (Tuesday) is looking good, I was sweeping water out of the food truck yesterday. People are driving around ... last night, there was no light in the entire city, Victoria was pitch dark."
Chefs CooperativesChefs Cooperatives

Paprocki and the Chef Cooperatives, weren't the only chefs to hit Victoria. Chef Andrew Weissman of Il Sogno and Moshe's Golden Falafel, headed to the Southeast Texas town on Sunday, and will make a return trip this Thursday. Donations of canned goods, dog food, diapers, tarps and hygiene products will be accepted at Moshe's Golden Falafel on McCullough through Thursday morning when Weissman leaves for Victoria.
click to enlarge TWITTER/AKWEISSMAN
Joan Cheever fired up The Chow Train, which feeds San Antonians in need on Tuesday evenings, for its eleventh disaster relief excursion on Monday afternoon. She's taken The Chow Train to Louisiana during last year's flooding, Joplin, Missouri after their 2011 tornado and Wimberley flooding in 2015. The trailer operates as a 501 (c)(3) non profit and donations can be made here.

Though they're staying in Rockport, which Cheever described as heartbreaking, the chef and a group of four helped feed 1,000 people in Aransas Pass. Like Guerrilla Gourmet, the trailer served up hot meals to residents and first responders. She was joined for lunch by Cheesy Jane's Jon Lindskog who fired up the flat top to crank out sliders.

"Everyone had a little bit of San Antonio today," Cheever said.

Her salads were also hits.

"People haven't seen green veggies in five days. Someone looked at the salad and said, 'That’s really all I want,'" Cheever said.
Courtesy of Joan Cheever
Cheever will stay in the area as long as she has supplies. She estimated she'll be able to serve lunch on Wednesday, maybe dinner. Once supplies are up, she'll likely team up with Mercy Chefs, a faith-based, non-profit disaster relief organization which was formed in 2006. Three more San Antonio chefs joined relief efforts with Mercy Chefs — Pieter Sypesteyn of The Cookhouse, as well as, Jeremy Mandrell and Anne Ng of Bakery Lorraine and recently opened Maybelle's.

Sypesteyn volunteered with Mercy Chefs during 2016 flooding in his native Louisiana and says the group has fed a couple hundred folks so far in Rockport, He described the scene succinctly.

"People are just beginning to come back to town. It's desolate here."

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