On October 6, 2016 Hurricane Matthew hit the southern part of Haiti, leaving a path of devastation and destruction. The tropical storm had reached a Category 4 hurricane status at the time of impact. The storm was so powerful that wind gusts alone reached 245 kilometers an hour.
Haiti is a small sovereign country in the Caribbean of the western hemisphere. It is also one of the poorest countries in the world. Poverty, corruption, deprived infrastructure, insufficient health care and an almost nonexistent education system are cited as the main foundations of many of this nation’s problems. At the time Matthew blew in, the country was still recovering from a 2010 earthquake. On October 7, an email came from Haitian Culinary Alliance Chef David Destinoble requesting assistance from World Chef’s Without Borders (WCWB) was received. Haiti is currently not a member of World Association of Chef Societies (Worldchefs), but that has never stopped chefs from helping other chefs before. Immediately, upon receiving word from Chef Destinoble, WCWB shared the news to its members and partners around the world through social media.
As a professor at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, I brought the news of the storm to the attention of my students. Within a matter of hours, many of them were asking “Chef, what can we do to help?” At that point we did not know the extent of the damage to the country and the status of its citizens. Johnson & Wales students in the Culinaria Latina Club felt a need to answer the call and stepped up to the plate. (No pun intended) Culinaria Latina promotes Latin American culture through food, music, and history along with other aspects at Johnson & Wales events, competitions and club meetings. They strive to help the greater community through fundraisers and volunteer work. The Culinaria Latina JWU students, with the help of club advisor Chef Valeria Molinelli, arranged a fundraising dinner with a goal to raise $1000.00 USD. They created, planned and expedited a six course dinner for friends and family on November 11, 2016. From appetizers to desserts, the menu featured local and seasonal products, from the New England region of the United States that students incorporated into Latin-themed items.
Being a chef for more years than I care to reveal, I was in awe of these young chefs coming together for such a worthy cause. Not one of them asking “What’s in it for me?” Well, I am pleased to report that not only did they reach their goal but they surpassed it, raising $1,200.00 USD. With people today having different global and political agendas these young chefs are making things happen. Mahatama Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” I am proud of this generation of future chefs. There are lessons for “experienced” chefs to gain from our younger colleagues, ones that will enable all of us, to leave this world in a better place than we found it. We are all chefs and we have no borders.
Ray McCue, M.Ed., CEC, CHE
Assistant Professor, College of Culinary Arts, Johnson & Wales University
World Chefs Without Borders Committee – USA