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José Andrés to CBS: ‘I Failed’ in Puerto Rico

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The humanitarian says opening his restaurant inside the Trump Hotel could have saved lives

Fifth Annual Town & Country Philanthropy Summit - Panels
José Andrés tells CBS having “direct contact” with President Donald Trump at his hotel could have helped more Hurricane Maria victims.
Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Town & Country

In a newly aired interview on CBS News, José Andrés stated that he believes he could have done more for victims of Hurricane Maria — despite preparing three million meals over the course of three months — and explains why his planned restaurant inside the Trump International Hotel could have been the ticket.

The humanitarian thinks he “failed” Puerto Ricans because he “was only” able to do 120,000 to 250,000 meals a day — and moving forward with his restaurant inside the D.C. hotel might’ve helped. In mid-2015, the chef pulled out of his plans for a restaurant there, following Trump’s inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants.

“I wish I was able to look him in the eyes while he was having maybe dinner, in the restaurant, in his hotel, and tell him, ‘Mr. Trump, we are failing the people of Puerto Rico, and we should not. I have a plan to feed them all. Give me the power to help you and to help the island,’” he tells CBS News correspondent David Begnaud.

He goes on to say the 3,000 hurricane victims “maybe died” because of lack of ample food, water, blue tarps, and generators.

“Because we didn’t do those things as quick as we were supposed to, people died. That’s why an NGO like mine failed,” he says, of his World Central Kitchen nonprofit.

He learned several lessons from Hurricane Maria, like making and establishing contacts with those “who can make me better, but in the process, I can make them better,” he says.

José Andrés released a book about the experience, We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time, this month.

Watch the full Sunday night interview here.

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