Food is Love

Sundae Horn
Raul, Chrissy, Charles, Richard, and Jason #OcracokeStrong
Raul, Chrissy, Charles, Richard, and Jason #OcracokeStrong

The #OcracokeStrong cooking crew dish up free love daily behind the Fire House.

When I stopped by over the weekend, they were busy warming huge trays of North Carolina pulled pork BBQ. I was early (lunch starts promptly at 1pm) because I wanted a photo op of the grillmasters and the story behind this impromptu island eatery.

"We got a lot of donated food, and we needed to cook it," explained local chef Jason Wells (of Jason's Restaurant). After Fat Fella's BBQ & Grille from Newport, NC visited the island on Sunday, September 8 to serve much-appreciated free fried chicken, the restaurateurs left behind "thousands of pounds of food" in a refrigerated trailer. There it sat until Jason and friends starting cooking on the big OVFD grills behind the Fire House.

They say that too many cooks spoil the broth, but the combined efforts of Jason, plus Richard O'Neal, Charles O'Neal, Chrissy Waller, Raul Ibarra, and Eduardo Chavez seasoned the food with love for their community.

Jason credited Tommy Hutcherson of the Variety Store, Michael Schramel, Crystal and Keith Hardt, and Daniela Gilbert (who brought pizzas from Sorella's to add to the spread) with providing more foodstuffs for the #OcracokeStrong crew to cook. Jason also reached out to his food reps for help. Megan Vayette of U.S. Food, Cliff Yerbe of PFG, and Forest Paddock of Sysco all worked with Jason to get donations from their companies.

The #OcracokeStrong cooks started out the first day with 500 lbs. of chicken (go big or go home!) After days of Salvation Army breakfasts, lunches, and dinners (Ocracoke's only opportunity for hot meals), my family really enjoyed the fresh-grilled jerk chicken – and every meal since. Jason put the word out on Facebook and started serving 500-600 (!) plates of food a day. The crew moved on to BBQ, turkey tacos, fried fish, chicarrones, pork tacos, and chicken potpie soup. (We were especially delighted with lettuce (!) on our tacos – greens were scarce on the island in the days after Dorian.) One day, they had donations of McDonald's hamburgers and today there were homemade cookies from our friends on Hatteras Island. Tomorrow's special is chili – both chicken and beef. They'll serve one more meal on Friday, and then retire from feeding the masses. "It’s been a pleasure to serve the hardworking folks busting their asses helping rebuild," Jason commented. 

Jason assured his followers on Facebook that we won't starve. The Methodist Men have set up at the Community Center to cook for Ocracoke residents and relief workers. 

Other island residents have shown their love by filling our bellies. Paula and Michael Schramel gave out bowls of jambalaya last night from the porch of their restaurant, the Flying Melon Cafe; and David Perez and some Latino friends from little Washington organized a Mexican food fiesta on another night. Tomorrow, the Back Porch restaurant will host all the island children for an ice cream party! 


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