In 2018, Spanish chef José Andrés was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine, and not only because he is a great cook, having introduced Spanish food and culture into the United States, he is also a hyperactive humanitarian who has become a hero for vulnerable people everywhere.
José Andrés has built a small empire in the US, including restaurants in Washington DC, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico. He has also just launched a new 3,200m2 Spanish food hall in Manhattan, where he offers cured meats, cheese, tapas, paellas and a selection of sherry wines. His “minibar” concept restaurant in Washington DC was awarded two Michelin stars and he has also received four Bib Gourmand awards for his restaurants Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, and China Chilcano.
He has also been nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize by congressman and presidential candidate John Delaney, for his work with disaster relief through his non-profit organization World Central Kitchen.
In 2018, José Andrés helped feed victims of natural disasters in Houston and North Carolina. More recently, he organized a massive Thanksgiving dinner for the firefighters and 15,000 survivors of California wildfires. When the US government shutdown, at the end of the year, it was José Andrés who was feeding federal workers. World Central Kitchen served more than 100,000 meals for workers and their families in Washington DC, and partnered with more than 400 restaurants in 35 states to serve several hundred thousand more meals nationwide. This year, he helped feed families displaced by floods in Fremont, Nebraska. In his nomination letter, Delaney said: “Mr. Andrés is solving one of the world’s ancient problems and supplying world leaders with a new road map to provide more effective disaster relief in the future.”
Andrés and his charity World Central Kitchen were responsible for relief efforts in Puerto Rico, immediately after Hurricane Maria, mobilizing a network of emergency kitchens, food trucks and partner organizations to make sure that communities in need received quality meals. No one had a plan to feed the people of Puerto Rico, they opened what was arguably the world’s biggest restaurant in a week and prepared more than 100,000 meals per day. Today, more than a year later, they continue to operate on the island, training local people so they can grow more of their own crops and can be more prepared the next time there is a natural disaster.
(Photo: John Francis Peters)
Since founding World Central Kitchen in 2010, when he volunteered after the earthquake in Haiti, José Andrés has been seen helping those in extreme need wherever disaster strikes around the world. He was in Guatemala and Hawaii, after volcanic eruptions; he was in Indonesia, after hurricanes and tsunamis. He was in Tijuana, cooking for Central American refugees. He was also cooking 20,000 meals a day in Mozambique, which was hit by a cyclone this March.
José Andrés’s efforts address not only the most immediate needs. He is also keen on creating conditions that empower people and change lives, for example by building school kitchens, which can become part of the fabric of the communities. In Haiti alone, his charity built or renovated more than 40 school kitchens. In Zambia, they opened a bakery; in the Dominican Republic, they invested in a beekeeping company run entirely by women; in Nicaragua, they joined forces with an NGO to help members of a coffee-roasting collective sell their beans directly to major American markets.
José Andrés is really, almost single-handedly, reinventing the way we should respond in emergencies. He and his team do not ask for permission, they just show up. He believes big nonprofits have to become leaner and more efficient. He strongly believes that when disaster strikes, you cannot give people military-style rations, they need real food and the confort that it brings. On the ground, you need professional chefs, just like you need nurses, architects and engineers.
For his humanitarian work, José Andrés has received the James Beard Foundation’s 2018 Humanitarian of the Year award and was honored at the Academy Awards. He has also received an honorary doctorate from George Washington University and a National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.
(José Andrés during relief efforts in Puerto Rico, Photo: The New York Times)
Send this to a friend