Chef Chris Neary traveled down south to cook for those in need after Hurricane Katrina. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he spent countless hours preparing food for personnel at fire and police stations affected that deadly day.
On Saturday, he was one of several chefs who made chicken stew, cauliflower, brown-sugared yams, and beet and root-vegetable salad for Sandy victims, volunteers and people who needed a warm meal at the East Rockaway fire station on Main Street. But Neary, 57, wasn't just serving strangers -- he was feeding his family, friends and neighbors who had been affected by the storm.
"I wanted to do something here in my hometown," said Neary, who is a corporate chef at J. Kings Food Service Professionals in Holtsville and a member of the American Culinary Federation, one of the event's hosts. "We were put on this earth to feed people and that's what we're doing."
The American Culinary Federation dispatches chefs after disasters such as superstorm Sandy. Seaford resident Gerald Molloy, the organization's Long Island chapter president, said they helped feed about 2,500 people in Lindenhurst last week.
About 100 people gathered at the fire station to enjoy the food, as well as to get recovery information from FEMA and other agencies. Nearly 2,000 homes in East Rockaway were impacted by the storm, according to East Rockaway Fire Department estimates. The three-hour event was a respite that many people said they needed after spending hours repairing their homes. The meal also is another example of how supportive and generous the East Rockaway community has been.
Tim Neary, Chris Neary's brother, said his home's basement and first floor were severely damaged by flooding, leaving his family without a kitchen. As he, his wife and two children enjoyed the hot meal, their floors were being ripped up. "To get out of the house a little bit . . . it is good," he said.
"It is overwhelming how nice people have been," said Kimberly Neary, Tim's wife.
Donna Hopper, also of East Rockaway, brought seven children, five of them her own, to the firehouse. Hopper said she has been watching neighborhood children while their parents repair their homes.
She said she brought them out "to see the community and to be strong."
"I like to see everyone together, working together," she said.