PORTSMOUTH, Va. - A team of local chefs in Portsmouth will be heading to Louisiana ahead of Hurricane Ida. Mercy Chefs will be providing hot meals to the hardest hit areas of Louisiana when Ida makes landfall.
“Something really magical happens over a shared meal. In a disaster area, we get the opportunity with food to give people a sense of normalcy,” said Chef Jonathan White, a managing chef with Mercy Chefs.
Chef White is one of a few chefs that will be headed to Louisiana this weekend before Ida makes landfall to provide meals to those impacted by the storm.
“We just sent a refrigerated truck from pre-stage just outside of the cone in Louisiana,” Chef White said.
Mercy Chefs says they will stay in Louisiana for as long as needed.
“When power comes back, that’s usually when we start to scale down, and that’s usually when we know folks can get hot meals well-prepared."
Mercy Chefs was started 16 years ago when Chef Gary LeBlanc went back to his home state of Louisiana to help feed people impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
“We were living in Virginia when Katrina struck. I lost a grandmother. My daughter lost a home. The people we saw standing on the bridges are people I used to work with. So, I had to go down and do something. I went to cook and really didn’t love the food that I saw other organizations serving. I thought there was a better way to feed people, and that was the birth of Mercy Chefs,” said Chef LeBlanc, the founder of the non-profit.
LeBlanc, who's currently in Waverly, Tennessee, providing meals to flood victims, says he’ll be flying to Louisiana Saturday.
“It’s going to be very difficult to be back down there. There are so many memories and triggers for me of Katrina.”
Mercy Chefs says they’ll have the capacity to serve 15,000 meals a day in Louisiana with their two mobile kitchens.
“We’ll have eight people traveling right now, then we’ll be joined by another four to five people from our staff. We’re anticipating that Hurricane Ida is going to be quite a storm.”
Other organizations that will be sending crews to Louisiana include the Red Cross and Operation Blessing. The Red Cross plans to send a team of approximately six people ahead of the hurricane.
“We have some volunteers from the coastal Hampton Roads area that are currently en route, and of course more than we are talking to,” said Khristopher Dumschat, the regional communications manager for the Red Cross of Virginia.
Operation Blessing will also be sending a team to Louisiana to people impacted by Hurricane Ida. The organization says a team from Virginia Beach will depart Saturday and head into the hardest hit areas once the storm passes.