Food News

Dallas Chef Yia Medina Returns to Puerto Rico for Earthquake Relief

Yia Medina volunteering in her homeland of Puerto Rico with World Central Kitchen
Yia Medina volunteering in her homeland of Puerto Rico with World Central Kitchen Yia Medina
Yia Medina is unfortunately pretty familiar with natural disasters. In 2017, when Hurricane Maria devastated her home island of Puerto Rico, she had to evacuate her three children to Texas. When she was able to join them, she arrived with just a backpack full of her belongings and, well, a résumé that included the Ritz-Carlton, helping her to secure a job at Fearing’s in the Ritz-Carlton Dallas. She’s now the executive chef at Jasper’s in Uptown.

On Dec. 29, a series of earthquakes began to shake the island, including a building-toppling 6.4-magnitude tremor. A continuous stream of aftershocks have left the people on the southern part of the island in a state of near panic.

But, instead of fleeing this time, Medina was in a position to help.

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Food for thousands living in camps in Puerto Rico
Yia Medina
“It is heartbreaking,” wrote Medina through Instagram message. “This is my home and my people. For the past five days, I’ve seen the devastation; almost 8,000 people are sleeping in tents or in their cars."

After experiencing the devastation of Hurricane Maria firsthand, Medina felt it was her turn to pay it forward. She's working with World Central Kitchen as a volunteer, cooking close to 12,000 meals a day for refugees in the area.

“Personally, if I could ask for something it will be for people to donate or send personal hygiene items," Medina says. "The 'camps' are filled with children who cannot go back to school, I would love for them to have games, art supplies and things to distract them.”

Adding at the end that, “People need to know there’s minimal to zero coverage in the U.S. about this.”

She's right.

The World Central Kitchen’s Facebook page is continually uploading stories and photos of their work there (as well as in Australia). There’s a donate button on their Facebook page, if you feel inclined to help. And there’s more information about how to become a volunteer on the World Central Kitchen website.

On Jan. 16, the American Red Cross released a statement that more than 1,000 earthquakes have hit Puerto Rico just this month, leaving thousands of people in shelters and thousands more living outside in fear of more destruction. The American Red Cross site states you can text the word EARTHQUAKES to 90999 to make an instant $10 donation. You can also donate through and specify Puerto Rico.

President Trump declared “a major disaster exists,” which officially makes federal funding available, specifically to those in the municipalities of Guanica, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce, Utado and Yuaco.

Follow Chef Yia Medina @yiamedina on Instagram for her updates.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.