A well-known restaurant owner in New Hampshire is back home after spending almost two weeks cooking for residents and volunteers in Puerto Rico.
Alex Ray owns the nearly 20 Common Man family of restaurants across New Hampshire.
After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, he knew the people there could use his expertise.
U.S. & World
The kitchen was unfamiliar. The language was different. However, the experience was eye opening.
"There’s an old saying that I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet," Ray told NBC Boston. "And that’s how I felt."
Last month, he was looking forward to a vacation he had booked with friends.
"I had planned a trip to Italy," Ray said.
But when Maria decimated Puerto Rico, he couldn’t bear the thought of traveling for pleasure when he knew he could be helping.
"So I bagged the trip to Italy and landed on (Sept.) 13th in San Juan," Ray said.
He cooked from sunup to sundown for almost two weeks.
He ran two kitchens, organized volunteer cooks, and opened up a third kitchen while he was there.
"You have to have a 'can-do' attitude, and everybody had it," Ray said.
He witnessed that positivity as he delivered meals to coastal towns that had been wiped out by the storm surge from families who had lost everything.
"They thanked us, they were glad, everyone was working together," Ray said.
In the mountain communities, he said there was only one way to deliver food.
"They dropped it in by helicopter," he said.
Ray returned home this week with a new perspective, some new friends, and a promise to the people of Puerto Rico.
"We’ll be back," he said.
Ray says while Puerto Rico continues to cleanup, the restaurants there remain closed, so the cooks are out of work. He’s planning to fly some of them to New Hampshire to work and earn money in his restaurants.
In the meantime, he said the Common Man Restaurants will continue to collect donations for Puerto Rico that will be strategically distributed the next time he goes to the island.