How did World Central Kitchen come to help Ventura during the Thomas Fires?

Chef Jose Andres at the Plaza Park benefit held for fire victims. Photo by Pam Baumgardner

by Jennifer Tipton

The nonprofit organization, World Central Kitchen was launched by Chef Jose Andres (born Jose Andres Ramon Puerta), a Spanish American chef credited for bringing the small plates dining concept to America. The celebrity chef owns 27 restaurants that spread from Las Vegas to Miami and has been recognized by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world. He received the James Beard Award for his humanitarian work here during the Thomas Fires (it was not his first).

Ventura’s very own Dr. Susanne Lammot, a pediatrician known for her charitable involvement with the Boys and Girls Club had a connection with one of the relief directors at World Central Kitchen. Responding to a local disaster like the Thomas Fires, the organization likes to connect with a local chef and Susanne called our own Chef Jason Collis on December 6th, just two days after the Thomas Fires erupted and relief efforts began.

I spoke with Chef Jason, one-time owner of Ventura’s restaurant “Jonathan’s” and “J’s Tapas & Martini Bar”. Jason and his wife, Jocelyn have a son and daughter, they sold the businesses when he realized how many birthdays and holidays he had missed, “I didn’t want to be stuck behind the grill to realize one day that I’d missed seeing my kids grow up”.

Their new business, “Plated Events” does exclusive catering and venue management for Limoneira Ranch and The San Buenaventura Mission, doing weddings, corporate events and local fundraisers including being one of the co-producers for the benefit at Plaza Park. Jason said, “when I saw how big it was with World Central Kitchen, I called up Chef Tim Kilcoyne and we worked side by side throughout the entire relief effort along with other local chefs such as Kayla Hernandez, the instructor for the culinary program at Ventura High School”.

World Central Kitchen “tries to tap into local resources to stimulate the local economy” (buying from local farmers and businesses), but they were blown away with the generosity of Ventura”, said Jason. FOOD Share, local farmers and businesses all donated. Buena, Villanova and Thacher schools provided food because “schools were closed, and they had all that food in the cafeteria!”. Ventura Party Rental was instrumental in donating their time and resources by picking up and delivering everything in their trucks.

With 200 volunteers a day for 60 days straight, the World Central Kitchen delivered greater than 35,000 meals to first responders and victims of the Thomas Fires in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, they were presented a portion of the proceeds from the Plaza Park benefit because the committee from the benefit “felt the City of Ventura was blown away with what they did, and we wanted to pay it forward to help the organization with Chef Jose Andres’ mission”, I was told.

Chef Jason contributed 16 hours a day of his own time December 7th to December 27th with World Central Kitchen. Catholic Charities gives an award to those that go “above and beyond”; the San Buenaventura Mission has nominated Chef Jason and wife Jocelyn for their help with World Central Kitchen and Thomas Fire relief efforts.

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