Chef José Andrés started his cooking career at the age of 15 when he enrolled in culinary school in Barcelona, Spain. Almost forty years later, he now operates 31 restaurants around the world, has written multiple cookbooks and hosts a TV show on the Discovery channel. But most importantly, Chef Andrés runs the World Central Kitchen, which helps provide meals to communities in need during times of crisis.
I was first introduced to José Andrés in 2017, when my family and I visited Washington, D.C., where he’s based. We went to two of his restaurants, Jaleo and Oyamel. The food was delicious and fun with innovative twists. For example, I had an ice cream cone filled with goat cheese. Both restaurants encouraged sharing food with your family and friends.
I haven’t been back to any of his amazing restaurants, but, in the years since, Chef Andrés and the World Central Kitchen have been working hard to help people in need. According to the website, the WCK’s mission is to be "first to the frontlines, providing meals in response to humanitarian, climate and community crises.” Since its inception, the WCK have provided over 300 million meals for people impacted by these life-altering events.
WCK has organized meals for refugees during war and after earthquakes and hurricane Most recently, WCK provided meals to families in Acapulco, Mexico, in the aftermath of Hurricane Otis.
WCK said “First arriving in Mexico City—as access to Acapulco was not yet possible—we got a hold of sandwiches, cases of water, and helicopters to provide immediate relief to impacted communities.”
One of their biggest challenges yet has been the continuing war in Ukraine. Immediately after the initial attack, the WCK hit the ground running in Poland, where many Ukrainians had fled. Soon after, it sent their teams into Ukraine to feed people. As of February 24, it had provided over 210 million meals and 175 million pounds of food according to their website timeline.
The thing I find so inspiring about José Andrés is that even with the celebrity chef and activist fame, he is never distracted from the mission of the WCK. He hasn’t forgotten about his time in Haiti in 2010 where, following a devastating earthquake, he witnessed the power of food to help bring people together while cooking in camps with local residents. His goal remains the same – to always provide good food for people unable to get it for themselves.
His mission has made me understand we take food for granted. In a second, something most of us have at our fingertips can be stripped away from us because of something out of our control. José Andrés isn’t in this for anyone but the people he is helping and that is such a rare thing to find today.
If you hadn’t heard of José Andrés, I want to be sure you understand two things: he makes some fantastic food and he is a generous human being. The World Central Kitchen is a four-star rated charity (the highest possible) which has created significant positive impact for many individuals and communities reeling from catastrophic events.
Chef Andrés believes food has the power to bring people together despite our differences, which is why he says we should build longer tables and not higher walls. He is a global treasure and an excellent example for us all.
Jack Davis (he/him) is a freshman studying journalism.