Hurricane Delta is churning toward Southwestern Louisiana, likely to ravage an area that only six weeks ago was thrashed by Hurricane Laura. Wherever it hits, the Houston Chuckwagon will be there.
Founded by El Big Bad owner Steve Sharma and Bravery Chef Hall's BOH Pasta & Pizza owner Ben McPherson, the young effort has been making and distributing meals to areas along the Gulf Coast impacted by natural disasters this year. They're hoping to raise $10,000 to help feed people affected by Delta and have so far collected more than $1,000.
Sharma says helping neighbors is just something they needed to do, their efforts beginning when Hurricane Laura was approaching the western Gulf Coast in late August.
"When we saw that it was going to hit Lake Charles specifically, it reminded us of how a lot of folks from Louisiana packed their trucks, and the Cajun Navy drove over here to help," says Sharma. "We wanted to be able to extend some help back to that community as well."
So he and McPherson did what they do best and organized a couple of chefs to help cook a bunch of meals. They raised $15,000 (more than their goal of $12,000) and packed a refrigerated truck with sandwiches, empanadas, red beans, rice, and other foods. Then they drove the truck to Lake Charles, where they gave the meals—3,000 total—out to first responders and members of the Cajun Navy, who further distributed the food to residents.
They did it again two weeks later when Hurricane Sally hit the eastern Gulf, raising enough money to send 600 meals to Alabama. With Delta, they'll go to wherever needs the help most.
"For us right now, it's raise funds, and if it's close enough to here we can cook in Houston restaurants, rent a truck and drive it there," says Sharma, adding that the Covid-19 pandemic complicates matters, but they'll do whatever is necessary to safely and responsibly get food to people. "We'll work with either people we know there in the Lake Charles area, or maybe a fire department in Lafayette, or if not, we'll tap other sources."
For the effort during Laura, Sharma and McPherson received help from local restaurants like Rainbow Lodge, Cherry Block Craft Butcher & Kitchen, Andes Café, and Margaux's Oyster Bar. Volunteers also helped pack meals, drive to Lake Charles, and distribute food.
Sharma and McPherson are working to turn the Houston Chuckwagon into a 501c3 nonprofit that helps people throughout Texas and the Gulf Coast impacted by disasters and related events. They're asking for any support they can get, and if you want to donate to the current Delta collection, you can visit this Facebook page.