Joe Cook, a Dothan hibachi chef and owner of Hibachi Joe’s, has created quite the reputation locally not only with his larger-than-life persona but also his acts of charity and service to communities in need.
After this week, his reputation may reach all the way to Capitol Hill.
Seeing constant news updates of troops stationed in Washington after the events of Jan. 6, Cook felt called to go provide any help he could give to them. After spending some time reaching out to different people to see if he could get permission to go and cook for the troops with no avail, he decided to pack up his mobile hibachi grill and food in his van and head to Washington anyway with the hope that luck was on his side.
“Everyone I spoke to told me I wouldn’t be able to do it, but my heart was telling me that I could be of service to someone there,” Cook said.
After arriving in Washington in his heavily laden van Monday morning, Cook began getting curious looks from guards and police as he searched for the right person to talk to regarding his plans. Officers ended up questioning him about what he was there for.
“They thought my van looked suspicious, which I understood,” Cook said. “I was a stranger from Alabama trying to find a way to get to the troops.”
Once the officers confirmed his identity and reason for traveling to the Capitol, Cook was told once again that it was not likely he would be given permission to cook for the troops.
“I started talking to people around the area, most of them were homeless,” Cook said. “It was freezing and many of them didn’t have any blankets or warm clothes. I knew that I had come to Washington for a reason and their stories touched my heart. I got to tell them my story, even though the only thing most of them knew about Alabama was football.”
Cook decided that his trip wouldn’t be wasted and set up his mobile grill on the corner of a street near the people he had spoken to and began cooking for them. While there he was able to serve more than 300 plates to people in the D.C. area.
“My only goal with my cooking is to serve,” Cook said. “I like to pay it forward in hopes that others will do the same.”
He went live on his Facebook page, Joe Cook Fan, to document the adventure and the video now has more than 45,000 views. Cook said he always appreciates the prayers and encouragements he receives on social media.
This isn’t the first time Cook has used his skills to help individuals in need. He once cooked for families that had been displaced by Hurricane Michael in 2018 and again after Hurricane Laurel.
Even though his trip didn’t go as planned, Cook says he still considers it a huge success because he was able to help people.