Puerto Rican chef, who lost renowned restaurant to Hurricane Maria, asks Richmond for a favor

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Wilson Davalos

Wilson Davalos

RICHMOND, Va. -- Imagine owning an award-winning restaurant.

A restaurant that commanded hour-long wait times.

A restaurant that garnered national acclaim.

Then, one day, it's just gone.

Torn apart, by a hurricane.

You are left with only the concrete shell.

It's a nightmare Wilson Davalos did not have to imagine.
It's his life.

Davalos owns CLMDO, a restaurant in Isabela, Puerto Rico.

One he built to national attention by himself.

The 20-seat restaurant was named by eater.com, GQ.com and the New York Times as one of the best restaurants in Puerto Rico and one of 52 places to go in 2017.

It only exists in name now.

CLMDO stands for colmado, which -- in island terms -- roughly means bodega.

CLMDO sat directly in the path of Hurricane Maria, the tenth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record and most intense tropical cyclone worldwide in 2017.

Davalos and his wife were in their home atop CLMDO when Maria hit.

CLMDO after Hurricane Maria

CLMDO after Hurricane Maria

"The building was shaking. Water was coming in. We were fighting water for hours," Davalos recalled."[Eventually] we basically looked at each other, and without saying anything, we give up. We go to our bed and lie down. We just didn't speak."

The solid building mostly withstood the damaging winds, but the restaurant suffered massive water damage.

"I lost all my equipment, everything I had in the restaurant was electric," he said. "My entire staff (many of whom lost their homes) are all stateside. They're all over the place."

CLMDO, in happier times

CLMDO, in happier times

Months later 40-percent of the island is still without power.

Now Davalos wants to, and is trying to rebuild.

And he is trying to raise money to provide some of the funds stateside.

After landing in Texas after the hurricane, he and his wife, a scientist, have moved to Richmond.

Brought to the states by a humanitarian effort flight, the two have made the city their home.

Davalos’ wife found a job with Virginia Commonwealth University.

Davalos is still searching.

“I am hoping to find a restaurant locally that will let me pop-up in their kitchen in May to do a couple of dishes," Davalos said. "And maybe down the road open a spot of my own here."

Wilson Davalos is now in Richmond, looking for an opportunity to cook again.

If given the opportunity, Davalos said he would like to present his "greatest hits" to Richmond diners.

"People really enjoyed a lamb dish that I did at CLMDO and I think I would do a pork dish," he said.

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