José Andrés and World Central Kitchen: feeding communities and their restaurants

It’s always refreshing to see people who have a large platform and use it speak for those who don’t. José Andrés is one of the more renowned chefs who does just that and is committed to making a positive mark on the world. He continues to step up in a big way for people in need and the industry he holds close to his heart — restaurants.

Even before the pandemic, it had been a while since I ate at one of Andrés’ restaurants. I tried to check out Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards when it first opened, but that was a rookie mistake. Of course it was swarmed with Andrés fans, tourists and other passersby. I hope I get another opportunity when the pandemic subsides and we’re comfortable being in groups again.

Beyond that failed attempt, I hadn’t thought a whole lot about José Andrés (no offense) until one of the earlier nights in quarantine when I was searching the internet for decent late night comedic relief. My mom told me to check out Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show: At Home Edition, so I started scrolling and saw a segment with Tina Fey and José Andrés as guests. I like both of those people, so I was intrigued. When Andrés came on the video, he was vivacious, in the kitchen (obviously) with his daughters, and was cooking up a massive skillet of fried rice while wearing a t-shirt with the words “Immigrants Feed America.” Love it. It was hard not to be mesmerized both by his ability to multitask and by the message he shared. He also waxes poetic about how chickpeas have feelings, too. It’s worth watching.

YouTube video of The Tonight Show: At Home Edition

On a more serious note. …the heart of (what I interpret to be) Andrés’ personal mission is to make sure the world is fed. He established World Central Kitchen (WCK) to help make that possible. During the past 10+ years, WCK has served in many times of crisis to ensure people don’t go hungry. 3.7 million meals to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, 550,000 meals in Indonesia after hurricanes and tsunamis, more than 670,000 meals in Colombia to Venezuelan refugees, and so much more.

Image from Jose Andres feed

Remember the Diamond Princess cruise several months ago? WCK fork lifted food onto the ship so that people onboard could eat. Andrés was also quick to act when cities in the United States began shutting down. He converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens and, shortly after, WCK launched #ChefsForAmerica to distribute individually packaged meals for children and families in need during the pandemic. The organization also delivers to seniors who cannot venture outside and to front line workers. Not only is WCK trying to make sure people are fed during this pandemic, but it is also taking it one step further to provide a much needed lift to the restaurant ecosystem. To help meet the growing demand for its help, WCK is purchasing meals from local restaurants, thereby providing ensuring at least a portion of restaurant workers can keep their jobs.

Image from World Central Kitchen Twitter feed

The organization committed to purchasing 1 million meals from more than 400 restaurants that are then delivered to the populations in need. It also puts an emphasis on local — supporting truly local businesses, tapping into local supply chains and feeding locally to help lift those economies up.

Image from World Central Kitchen Twitter feed

Not every restaurant will be saved. Not every displaced hospitality worker will have a job. But what Andrés and the WCK are doing provides glimmers of hope and a bringing together of communities even when we are all forced to stay at least six feet apart.

If you’re interested in supporting the cause, you can do so here.

DISCLAIMER: While I provide information about charitable organizations and fundraising pages, I am not endorsing, providing recommendations or making a comment on the platforms’ efficacy. All readers should do their own due diligence should they choose to participate.