By Carlos Correa

STOCKTON (CBS13) — A Puerto Rican chef who lived through the heartache and devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria is using his talent in the kitchen to help educate the Stockton community about the island and its people.

Saturday marks four months since the deadly Category 4 storm hit the Caribbean.

Chef Jose Sanchez was just a teenager when he was introduced to the world of fine dining. He started as a dishwasher and eventually, opened up his own restaurant in his hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“I think, the food is part science and part art, and that’s exactly what we do,” said Sanchez.

His restaurant was a popular destination for tourists that was damaged by Hurricane Irma and destroyed in Hurricane Maria’s.

“Yeah, we have a terrible, things happen after Maria and before Maria, but we have, we are more than this. We something special in the food, we have flavor, we have that feeling and passion about what we do,” he said.

Chef Sanchez was invited to Stockton’s Restaurant Week after meeting owners of Thai Me Up, a Thai restaurant located along the miracle mile. Business owner Carlos Garcia has family on the island.

“I was able to send some care packages to my friends and family, and then we visited about a month ago, and you know we try to help out as much as we can,” said Garcia, who co-owns Thai Me Up.

Power in Puerto Rico is slowly returning, and Garcia says business is also starting to pick back up.

“I saw people come out, they are starting to come out for dinner, they are starting to have fun, and they are kind of making the best of out of it and moving forward,” said Garcia.

As for Chef Sanchez, he’s also rebuilding. But for now, he’s sharing his culture and authentic Puerto Rican dishes in a four-course meal with Stockton.

“We cook with passion so, it’s worth it to be here and cook for everyone here,” said Sanchez.

Restaurant week in Stockton starts Friday and runs through Jan. 28 with more than 30 restaurants participating.

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