Dothan chef serves up hot meals during dark times
Hibachi Joe says his heart overflows with a love for God and providing for those in need. That’s why he cooks big and gives even bigger.
Joe — who does not use a surname but is known to many as “Joe Cook” — is renowned in the Wiregrass for his impressive skills as a private chef. However, he is perhaps more well known for packing up his grill for solo trips to areas affected by natural disasters, civil unrest and tragedy. Once there, he cooks up big portions of shrimp, steak, chicken, fried rice and grilled veggies for dozens — sometimes hundreds — of people in need of a hot meal.
“God gave me the gift of cooking,” Joe says. “It's just my passion … God always has a mission for me to tackle, and He’ll provide and He’ll bless me.”
Heart for Cooking
Recently, Joe went to Uvalde, Texas, to serve people affected by the unimaginable sudden losses of fourth-grade students and teachers killed by a lone gunman. He also traveled to Washington, D.C., in the days after the Jan. 6 riot to serve homeless people there.
His latest recognition from the community is due to his missions to areas left devastated by severe weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding. Since his grill is powered by propane, he can get to work in areas where businesses and homes don’t have electricity to prepare and store food. He cooks for first responders, displaced people, linemen and anyone else who needs a hot meal.
“The smile on their face when they eat my food, that makes it worth it,” Joe says.
Help During Hurricane Aftermath
Hibachi Joe was selected as a winner of the Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass award, a partnership between Wiregrass Electric Cooperative and WTVY. As part of the program that honors local unsung heroes and organizations, Joe was presented with a $1,000 check from WEC’s Operation Round Up Foundation to continue carrying out his good work.
“Joe really epitomizes the Silent Heroes program because he’s not doing it for
recognition, but for God’s glory,”
Brad Kimbro, WEC’s chief operating officer, says. “Specifically, being in the electric utility world, I know what he’s done when all these hurricanes have hit in the past and how he’s offered his time and services to go and prepare food for those in need.
“He’s going to places with no restaurants to serve our first responders and our linemen who are sleeping in their trucks,” Kimbro adds. “He doesn’t do it for the recognition, but he is certainly deserving of it.”
Joe, who spent much of his childhood in war-torn Cambodia where he often went hungry because of food scarcity, feels a calling to help people who are suffering.
“God just has a way of using me in the right place at the right time,” Joe says. “I feel blessed to get to do what I do every day here in Dothan. I couldn’t do it without the support of people in the Wiregrass.”
When people in the community talk about Hibachi Joe, they often mention his humor, humility, generosity and dedication to his craft. So, when Joe feels the need to serve others, people in the community support his effort any way they can — whether it’s by offering words of support or encouragement as he livestreams his long, arduous journeys on Facebook or lending a helping hand.
When Joe feels called to help, he may stay up all night preparing food at his carry-out restaurant in Dothan before leaving in his food truck and often driving long distances to cook fresh food for people coping with disaster.
“The people that support me really energize me to do what the Lord has chosen me to do,” Joe says. “I don’t do this for attention or anything. I do it because I have been so blessed in my life and God has called me to use my gift to help others.
“I just thank Wiregrass Electric and WTVY for honoring me and believing in me,” he adds. “People think I do a good job and think I’m a hero, but I don’t feel that way. I just feel like God calls me, and I just show up. He gives me the strength, and He gives me everything I need to travel and be safe.”