Determined to help Puerto Rico, Takoma Park chef shares cooking
Sometimes the smallest gesture mean the world to someone else, and that's why an employee at Republic in Takoma Park refused to give up.
In the restaurant’s kitchen, he belted out, “Order dry, pork belly.”
His name is Samuel Diaz. He works at Republic, a bar and restaurant in Takoma Park.
"You eat something that people created for you and get that sense of joy,” said the second-generation chef, who added, “Honestly, starting this up has been a little difficult because I don't have the celebrity chef."
Right after Hurricane Maria, Diaz, who goes by “Chef Sammy”, wanted lend what he knew best – cooking – to the people of Puerto Rico.
"Two days after, I found out that Jose Andres was there. I woke up to a Twitter message. Oh, Jose Andres is there," he said.
“Were you upset, a little competition there," asked WUSA9.
“Oh, you know Jose Andres like every other chef, you would want to be in their position,” Chef Sammy responded.
However for him, it was much different.
"You're reaching out to so many people and you get so little response and that kind of just takes the air out of you,” he said.
Still he didn't give up. And now this Saturday, Diaz and five chef-friends have plans to cook in at least three towns for three days.
On day one:
"Actually going to be cook at my grandmother's house. Kind of in her yard, we're creating kind-of like a make-shift kitchen,” said Diaz.
The Republic chef said it was a huge undertaking that would not have been possible without the help of his family, friends, his place of employment and Friends of Puerto Rico in D.C., which Garcia said was really the only outside organization to respond to his request for help.
Diaz said he’s spent around $1,500 of his own money for plane tickets. Another $6,500 came from donations to a Chefs de Borinquen GoFundMe account created. He said he also took out a new credit card to make sure everything was ready for next week whether he receives the aid or not.
Saturday at 1 p.m., Diaz said he’ll be at the airport with some 400 pounds of food. He’s also still working to rent a food truck once he lands in Puerto Rico to help transport the cooked goods to a few of the Island’s hard to reach places.
It’s a small operation compared to Celebrity Chef Jose Andres and his non-profit, World Central Kitchen, which at one point was reportedly serving more than 130,000 meals a day.
Still, for Diaz, nothing is too small. He also knows firsthand what it’s like experiencing devastation. Diaz said he lived on the Island when Hurricane George essentially cut Puerto Rico in half in 1998.
“There's something my uncle has always told me. It's that you always help your neighbor because you never know, one day you may need them," he said.