Even during the coronavirus pandemic, Santa Fe is maintaining its high profile in the culinary world.
World Central Kitchen, the humanitarian food distribution effort led by superstar chef José Andrés, has joined forces with Santa Fe Community College’s culinary arts program to help feed hungry New Mexicans over the next eight weeks.
It is the first World Central Kitchen program located in the Southwest and the first to be operated on a community college campus.
Founded by Andrés in 2010, World Central Kitchen calls itself a team of “food first responders” that helps heal communities during times of crisis. It has served more than 17 million meals to those affected by natural disasters in such countries as Haiti, Mexico, Venezuela and the United States.
The SFCC program, which is cooking up such New Mexican specialties as enchilada casserole, green chile stew and posole, had a soft launch last week. About 2,000 to 3,000 meals a day will be distributed through an organized drive-up at the college on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2 to 4 p.m.
The meals will also be distributed by Santa Fe Public Schools bus drivers to SFPS students and their families. Last week, the World Central Kitchen program also began bringing food to a pueblo, which it has chosen not to identify to honor the privacy of the Native Americans who live there.
Food trucks may be part of the distribution picture, too, especially in the former mining town turned arts community of Madrid south of Santa Fe, where the economy has been devastated by the lack of tourism.
The partnership between World Central Kitchen and SFCC was forged by Robert Egger, a Cerrillos resident who is serving as a food security adviser to Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber.
Egger is a longtime friend of Andrés and has had a long career leading charitable meal programs. He helped launch the DC Central Kitchen and the LA Kitchen, which together have produced more than 50 million meals during their tenure.
“Our goal is to produce and distribute thousands of healthy meals on a daily basis, with a hefty dose of traditional New Mexico ingredients,” said Egger. “We want to make sure we reach folks in the most rural or challenged communities, where the economic ripples of COVID-19 have been most devastating.”
Asked to place a value on the collaboration between World Central Kitchen and SFCC, Egger responded, “You can’t place a price tag on serving your community.”
Egger noted the program isn’t just a response to coronavirus, but to the economic fallout that has ravaged New Mexico’s tourism-based economy.
The World Central Kitchen-SFCC venture is bringing together volunteers from the community, SFCC students in the college’s culinary arts program and star chefs from Santa Fe restaurants. The city’s eateries have largely been shut down, except for takeout orders, by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s emergency orders aimed at stopping the pandemic’s spread.
Among the culinary stars who have answered the call from SFCC Culinary Arts Program Chef Jerry Dakan are Sllin Cruz, executive chef of Geronimo on Canyon Road; Rocky Durham, executive chef at Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in La Cienega; and David Sellers, program director and executive chef of Albuquerque’s Street Food Institute, who spent 10 years as chef at Santacafé.
Efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus through the SFCC program are being overseen by SFCC Dean of Sciences, Health, Engineering and Math Jenny Landen. When volunteers and visitors arrive at the SFCC’s industrial kitchens where the meals are being prepared, their temperature is taken to make sure they don’t have a fever. They are also given disposable gloves and face masks if they don’t have them.
“SFCC Foundation established the Student Emergency Assistance Fund to help students stay focused on their studies by providing emergency funds now and in the future,” said SFCC Foundation Board President Carmen Gonzales. “The efforts of World Central Kitchen complement those of the SFCC Foundation by ensuring students remain hungry to succeed in their education – not hungry for food.”