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Gary LeBlanc doesn’t wait until the holiday season to do good for others -- he does it all year round!
Most recently, his non-profit disaster relief organization, called Mercy Chefs, has helped feed victims, volunteers and first responders in natural disasters and national emergencies, such as Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and the California wildfires.
It all started, though, when Hurricane Katrina hit his home city of New Orleans in 2005 -- and Gary felt compelled to lend a hand in a big way.
"[Hurricane] Katrina was devastating," Gary, who now lives in Virginia, recounts. "Not just for the city, but for my family. I knew I had to do something."
Initially, he decided to volunteer with other relief organizations, helping to feed those in need during the aftermath of the storm -- but he wanted to do even more.
"I thought that there was a better way to feed people in the aftermath of a disaster," Gary explains. "That [the food] needed to be professionally prepared -- handcrafted food that you would recognize and be excited to eat."
That’s how Mercy Chefs was born!
And in order to live up to what he dreamt Mercy Chefs would become, Gary felt that he should learn a little bit more about the culinary trade.
"I wasn’t going to go to culinary school, and so I picked up a book," Gary says. "And it was Jacques Pepin’s La Technique."
And boy has his "studying" paid off!
Since Gary founded Mercy Chefs -- which is completely funded by donations -- he and 4,200 volunteers have been active in 120 disasters and have served more than 1,750,000 people.
Because Gary has done so much good for others, Kroger gifted him with $5,000 for groceries -- which was matched by Rach's foundation! PLUS, we asked his chef idol and our friend, Jacques Pepin, to pay him a visit in our studio.
Watch that adorable moment in the video above!