World Central Kitchen Arrives to Support Mendocino Complex Shelters

By Kathleen Maclay, Red Cross Volunteer

On the menu for lunch on Monday, August 6th for Red Cross shelters serving the evacuees of the Mendocino Complex Fire: 1,000 servings of non-spicy vegetable Thai curry and mixed green salad – the first of many meals coming their way from the World Central Kitchen, launched by famed Chef José Andrés after the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

On Tuesday the team mixed it up with some meaty shepherd’s pie and a chili-flavored chicken and quinoa dish to satisfy those who aren’t ready for the only vegetarian fare.

Tim Kilcoyne, chef elite team lead, arrived early at the Middletown High School cafeteria to launch the effort on Monday. Joining him were eight volunteers (three of whom were from Hidden Valley Lake) who responded to a call to feed lunch and dinner daily to those forced from their homes by the River and Ranch blazes that comprise the Mendocino Complex Fire.

The World Central Kitchen has been activated at a growing number of Golden State disasters by its Chefs for California team, a group that aims to help improve the world through the healing magic of good, healthy and mouth-watering food – especially for those experiencing traumas such as the ones affecting thousands of Californians at the peak of the region’s wildfire season.

The fires around the lake have gained the title of the state’s biggest fire ever.

“With any disaster, you have to be quick on your feet and get to work and get things done,” said Kilcoyne, who has been part of the World Central Kitchen efforts at the nearby Carr Fire in Redding as well as emergency responses to the volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and last December’s Thomas Fire near Ventura (where he lives).

Jackie Pasalo, a preschool teacher and a Lakeport fire evacuee who has been allowed to return to her home, said she answered a call for volunteers she found on Facebook.

“This is what I can do and I can cook,” she said while dished out salads into containers to be ferried to the Mendocino Complex shelters. “I’m okay with being in the kitchen.”

Even Chef Jose’s own personal assistant, Satchel Kaplan-Allen, joined the kitchen crew after pulling himself away from a vacation and a planned drive up the West Coast. He said he knew about the Carr Fire when he flew out from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco last week. But as the Mendocino Complex Fire continued to rage, he felt compelled to take a detour from his road trip. “I called Tim yesterday to say I’d open up the kitchen and help as much as needed.”

 

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The kitchen hummed Monday morning with the sound of the chopping of eggplant, white onions, Yukon gold potatoes and bell peppers, the stirring of giant sauté pans and sliding trays in and out of a cafeteria oven more often used to heat up tater tots and mac and cheese.

On Tuesday, Clearlake Oaks resident and Lower Lake High shelter client Dolores Marconi, an avid cook who appreciates World Central Kitchen’s high culinary standards, eagerly awaited the lunch delivery and said she wasn’t disappointed.