Volunteers who pitched in during the 2015 Memorial Day Flood have partnered to create a permanent emergency-response kitchen in Wimberley that will aid those in need.
Jay Bachman, a Wimberley resident who pitched in following the flood event, will serve as the managing chef of the Mercy Chefs’ Wimberley location. The kitchen will help feed Texans impacted by natural disasters across the state.
Bachman joined the Mercy Chefs group after his experience of offering thousands of plates of food to Wimberley residents following the 2015 floods. The Wimberley kitchen, which is mobile and always ready to deploy, can easily serve 4,000 people a day during disasters, Bachman said.
“We want to expand but still be able to serve good food,” Mercy Chefs Founder and President Gary LeBlanc said. “I came up with my model for making a lot of meals the right way and doing it affordably. I’ve tried sharing that with other companies, but many are stuck in their ways.”
Joining the cause was born out of Bachman’s own experiences.
Bachman was catering a wedding when torrential rains caused flooding on the Blanco River in May 2015. While the wedding went on and the immediate family enjoyed their meal, Bachman had more than 250 plates of food that he didn’t know what to do with.
On his way back to Wimberley, Bachman called his wife to get safe directions back to the area on any roads still open.
“That was the most water I had ever seen in my life,” Bachman said. “It had been raining in the area for a couple of weeks. That day it came down and didn’t stop.
Bachman was dispatched to the gymnasium of a local high school where he gave out the food to those who sought shelter. Meanwhile, Mercy Chefs was stationed at a church on the other side of the city. There, Bachman learned of Mercy Chefs and LeBlanc.
“It’s an honor for a chef,” Bachman said. “What we do is we bring people together. The biggest thing that a chef does is he feeds people’s souls. Mercy Chefs gives hope to those who are broken”
LeBlanc said he and his chefs typically serve up southern comfort food that always includes salads and fresh vegetables.
“The best part is being able to help these people feel normal during the worst of times,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc and Bachman have helped serve mac and cheese, southern fried chicken, Texas chili and more to thousands across the state. They’ve helped those who were impacted by hurricanes or tornadoes – events that leave residents without an affordable way to feed themselves during recovery.
Bachman said he helps because he remembers recovering from hurricanes in New Orleans as a young man, when it was difficult to get to grocery stores and find fresh food for a while.
Mercy Chefs held its ribbon-cutting ceremony May 15 at the Wimberley Chamber of Commerce.