People of DC big news! Today after a dream of 30 years I’m announcing we will open @bazaarbyjose in the Old Post Office! Building longer tables in the heart of our nation’s capital, welcoming people from across the city & the world?? I’ll share more soon.. @WaldorfAstoria @cgi_mg pic.twitter.com/CFf4QOmRzw
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) June 13, 2022
And that reminded me — I never got around to posting a couple of great articles about a good man.
From GQ, “Cooking on the Frontlines with Chef José Andrés”:
… “The people were amazing: random people who believed they had to do something, which was beautiful to see,” Andrés told me, a few weeks later. He was calling from another border crossing, Przemyśl, where WCK continued to feed a steady flow of displaced Ukrainians as they boarded buses bound for processing elsewhere in Poland and across Europe. Unlike a hurricane, he said, after which things get at least incrementally better each day, war was a steady drip of disaster. “Sometimes it can be very quiet here and then, all of a sudden, chaos.” He hummed a snatch of “Ride of the Valkyries.”
By then, Andrés had spent nearly four weeks sending out messages from the Ukraine border and inside the war-torn country itself. Many were the signature selfie videos that have become a vital part of WCK’s storytelling and identity, and are often among the first images on the ground that the world sees following a disaster. We saw a bakery in Lviv turning out thousands of loaves for refugees sheltering at the train station; chefs in Kyiv making cabbage-and-potato-stuffed pyrizhky to send to orphanages; the food hall in Odesa, turned into a food donation and distribution center; WCK’s signature giant paella pans repurposed for massive batches of borscht and applesauce; 18-wheelers filled with flour and other staples, headed to areas of fighting too intense to set up cooking operations. “Everywhere we go in Ukraine…food is at the center of resistance!” Andrés tweeted.
In the months prior, Andrés and I had spent time together in Chicago, where he was opening two new restaurants, and at his home base in Washington, D.C. It seemed then that COVID-19—during which WCK had offered a lifeline to some 2,500 restaurants in 400 cities across America, paying them to provide meals for those in need—had been the calamity for which Andrés and WCK had been unwittingly preparing all along. Now, it was this new, man-made disaster that seemed to be drawing on and testing the full range of its strategies and resources.
I thought of a conversation we had on a cold afternoon in December, standing on the patio of his new restaurant, overlooking a bend in the Chicago River. Andrés had lit a cigar.
“The way I see it, right now with World Central Kitchen I have the biggest, most powerful network of hardware in the history of mankind,” he said. “Because, in my eyes, every kitchen is already ours. And every car. And every boat. And every helicopter. Every cook is part of our army, even if they don’t know it yet.” He took a puff and reflected. “I don’t say that openly, because people will think I’m crazy. It’s just the way I see it: We are the biggest organization in the history of mankind. Even if we only have 75 people on payroll.”…
… [W]hen José Andrés says that he wants to feed the world, it is not a figure of speech. He means it. He became famous feeding the fortunate, a hero feeding the unfortunate, and, in the meantime, has done his best to feed everybody in between. Andrés often invokes Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath: “Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.” Steinbeck, a writer, employed a metaphor; Andrés, a chef, buys plane tickets. His omnipresence can almost be comic: One moment you hear about a disaster someplace in the world and the next, there he is on your social media feed.
“It’s like he’s everywhere, all at the same time,” says golfer Sergio García, Andrés’s friend and fellow Spaniard. “You know it can’t be true, but it feels that way.” There are operations you may have forgotten or have only been dimly aware of: the crews and passengers stranded on docked cruise ships in Japan and in Oakland at the very outset of COVID; fires in the Bronx and in Boulder County, Colorado; typhoons and tsunamis in the Philippines and Indonesia; the volcanic eruption in La Palma, Spain; the Beirut munitions explosion. In the summer, it’s fires; hurricanes in the fall. Andrés and his team are so conversant in storms gone by they can sound like kindergarten teachers reading class rolls: Sally, Michael, Laura, Ida, Sandy. If emergency has become the permanent condition of our globe, it’s hard to think of a single face more associated with addressing it than Andrés’s…
And in the Washington Post, “The ‘margarita diplomacy’ of José Andrés”:
José Andrés is Zooming from New York City, where he and Ron Howard are doing publicity for Howard’s new National Geographic documentary “We Feed People,” about Andrés’s emergency food relief organization, World Central Kitchen. Sitting on a hotel couch next to Howard, fresh from getting a rapid coronavirus test, Andrés explains why he’s running late.
He was supposed to get into New York the night before, “but I didn’t,” he says. “Because I hosted — for two hours that became five hours — 13 senators in my restaurant.” In the Brillat-Savarin room at Andrés’s restaurant Oyamel, he convened a bipartisan discussion on issues including the conflict in Ukraine, where World Central Kitchen has been a presence since February; immigration reform; and the upcoming White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, which Andrés has been instrumental in resuscitating (the last one was held in 1969).
“For me to invite the senators and that they would show up?” Andrés says with his characteristic passion. “I mean, you never see 12 or 13 senators outside the Senate together, Republicans and Democrats. … I call it margarita diplomacy.”…
In “We Feed People,” premiering May 27 on Disney Plus, there’s a brief scene of President Bill Clinton giving Andrés a shout-out after signing the Good Samaritan law of 1996, which protects food donors from civil and criminal liability. The next day at Jaleo, Andrés donated a truckload of food to DC Central Kitchen, founded by Robert Egger to create a nexus between feeding the hungry, combating poverty, providing employment training and creating jobs. To Andrés, the significance of the Clinton scene isn’t the presidential name-check as much as that it encapsulates the ethic that has informed both his business and his activism.
“That’s why you will see me over the years knocking on the doors of the Congress, knocking on the doors of the Senate, trying to become a voice and sometimes just partnering with organizations doing a good job,” he says, describing his political education as “slowly learning the process of how, if you’re constant and you know what to ask for and how to articulate your message, eventually we may be successful in helping policymakers to create better policy…
“We Feed People” traces the evolution of World Central Kitchen, which began with rapid responses to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and especially to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, when the organization’s efforts mobilized more than 20,000 volunteers, many of them local chefs, who prepared and distributed more than 4 million meals. The film chronicles World Central Kitchen activations in Guatemala, the Bahamas, North Carolina and covid-ravaged New York; what emerges is a portrait of suffering and deep human need, but one that goes beyond passive concern.
“I had seen José speak, and I understood his great work and the entrepreneurial spirit he brought to what became World Central Kitchen,” Howard says. “But I didn’t understand how empowering it was for people. That the way the organization operated, the way it deputized people and encouraged them to join — how healing that was. … That was something I recognized in [‘Rebuilding Paradise’]. Because in that case, we did embed teams for a whole year there. And I could see that the people who did get involved in their community … did better. They coped better. They recovered sooner.”…
… Andrés is eager to get back to the front lines. “Frankly, I was very close to canceling all of this, I’m not going to lie to you,” he says, referring to the marketing push for “We Feed People.” But, he says, he needed to come home to reconnect with his wife, Patricia, and their three daughters. He would soon depart for Spain, where he’s filming a series for Discovery Plus; then, it’s back to Ukraine, where he says daily life is almost surreally bifurcated.
“You see a father and a mother walking in the park and they’re laughing with their children … and it seems life is normal,” he says. “Then across the street is a place hosting refugees that just left Mariupol. That’s the reality. It’s many stories living with each other at once. Not everything is mayhem. But at the same time, not everything is chocolate and roses. But the good thing is [these] amazing stories of empathy and humanity, where everybody seems to find a reason to serve.”
Chef Jose Andres, founder of World Food Kitchen, testified before a U.S. congressional committee about the logistics and distribution of humanitarian aid in Ukraine pic.twitter.com/Kf7KpybL4T
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 12, 2022
Russian forces hit a @WCKitchen @chefjoseandres food train in Eastern Ukraine, José Andrés says. "They are now hitting train infrastructure hard…This won’t stop us—our amazing Ukrainian WCK teams will keep feeding the people," Andrés says, adding nobody was hurt.
— Shannon Vavra (@shanvav) June 15, 2022