Trump's FEMA Quite Miffed At Chef José Andrés For Being A Big Ol' Showboat In Puerto Rico

'Enjoy your meal. Trump is Satan!' ... 'Enjoy your meal. Trump is Satan...'

Now that Washington DC chef José Andrés and his charity, World Central Kitchen, have served over 2.3 million hot meals in Puerto Rico, the operation is beginning to wind down, shifting emphasis from mass feeding operations across the island to running kitchens in the hardest-hit communities.

But don't let all the praise being heaped on José Andrés fool you -- the folks at the Federal Emergency Management Agency aren't pleased with him at all, because, as one official complained to Buzzfeed, Andrés is really just a businessman trying to make himself look like a do-gooder, and worse, he has said bad things about FEMA and the Trump administration, and that is really quite a big shame considering all the great work the administration has accomplished in Puerto Rico. You see, according to Marty Bahamonde, the director of FEMA's disaster operations division, Andrés is merely "a "colorful guy who gets a lot of exposure" and "a businessman looking for stuff to promote his business." Yes, that's someone from the Trump administration complaining that a businessman is out to promote his business. Buzzfeed didn't mention whether the interview with Bahamonde was conducted at the Trump International Hotel in DC, the Trump Bedminster golf resort, or at the Trump Handi-Storage just off Exit 347.

Said a clearly disappointed Bahamonde,

He was very critical of us publicly and we were disappointed he took that approach [...] We had a good working relationship, and we paid him a lot of money to do that work. It wasn’t volunteer work — so we were disappointed in some of his public comments.

Funny, we see that World Central Kitchen is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2010 to help out after the Haitian earthquake, not a branch of José Andrés's commercial restaurant venture, Think Food Group. The organization sure says a lot on its website about its network of local volunteers in Puerto Rico, so we're a bit skeptical of the claim that this "wasn’t volunteer work," although WCK did indeed contract with FEMA to provide hot meals all over the island.

Bahamonde acknowledged that WCK was the only group able to serve hot meals, but added that Andrés had unrealistic expectations about how emergency contracts worked, asking to arrange contracts that went beyond the short-term, 2-week arrangements FEMA was able to sign:

[Andrés] said he wanted a 60-day contract through December for $30 million, and there "was a frustration on his part in what he viewed as bureaucracy getting in the way."

Long-term contracts like that, said Bahamonde, would require competitive bidding of the sort that Puerto Rico's power authority didn't bother with when it threw millions at a tiny (two-man!) Montana company to work on its electric grid.

Andrés certainly didn't hide his frustration with all the red tape he saw as getting in the way of helping Puerto Rico, as this tweet from October made clear:

For his part, Andrés told Buzzfeed that working in Puerto Rico had been a positive, hopeful experience, and that the government employees on the ground there, from FEMA to the National Guard, had been very helpful. As for the comments from Bahamonde, Andrés replied as diplomatically as he could:

"For them to say I was a businessman trying to make a buck, whoever said that should be very ashamed of themselves," Andrés told BuzzFeed News.

Buzzfeed dutifully notes that Andrés ruffled Trumpian feathers in 2015 when he pulled out of a deal to open a restaurant in Trump's hotel in DC after Trump called Mexicans rapists and murderers; the Trump Organization and Andrés eventually reached an undisclosed settlement earlier this year.

Andrés said he thought FEMA would be a lot more efficient if it were less bureaucratic, but disputed the idea that he'd insisted on a long-term, $30 million contract; he'd have been OK with short-term contracting as long as FEMA gave enough notice early in the process to allow him to scale operations up and down.

He also said he wasn't as interested in critiquing FEMA as in talking about the positive experiences, which far outweighed the occasional bureaucratic frustrations; he cited volunteers who wouldn't take a meal break themselves until they made sure "every elderly person in their community got a plate of food and a bottle of water," for instance, or National Guard members who followed up their assigned work of fixing generators by coming back and delivering 150 whole cooked chickens to remote villages.

FEMA, on the other hand, was pretty insistent that Andrés was just one guy who, sure, was nice and helpful and all, but let's not get all carried away calling him a hero or anything:

"José Andrés proved to be a partner who was here, who we could immediately connect with, who served a great need for the time he was under our contract, the same way many other people did," Bahamonde said. "Because of that effort, you saw stabilization of food on the island."

That's actually remarkably subtle disparagement for a Trump administration official -- much more nuanced than you'd expect from, say, the EPA's Liz Bowman, who probably would have called Andrés a showboating little cook with an EZ Bake Oven. And then she'd announce the shipment of several hundred tons of toxic sludge to San Juan.

Andrés declined to directly slag Trump's mismanagement of the recovery effort in Puerto Rico, no doubt because any criticism might lead the big orange baby to announce he'll take all the helicopters and go home, but the chef did note that the 2010 recovery effort in Haiti -- when that pothead Obama was running things -- "had a better sense of the urgency of now than I saw in Puerto Rico, specifically on food and water." He's also already considering how WCK can gear up for the next disaster, wherever it is, so he can apply the lessons of his work in Puerto Rico:

"They needed someone to say, 'we need to feed this island, we need to do it, we’re not going to wait for someone else,'" he said.

"More than feeding the body, it brings hope, sending the message that maybe tomorrow will be better."

Hope? Aw hell no. America voted that out a year ago.

Yr Wonkette is supported by reader contributions. Please click here to recharge our hopey-changey batteries! And if you're in the mood to help out World Central Kitchen, they're still on the ground in Puerto Rico feeding folks.


Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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