José Andrés Is Changing the World Through the Power of Food

Chef José Andrés will speak at Broward College's virtual speaker series.
Chef José Andrés will speak at Broward College's virtual speaker series. Courtesy of Think Food Group
José Andrés is more than a world-class chef. Much, much more. He's a humanitarian who formed World Central Kitchen (WCK) in 2010 with his wife, Patricia, to help communities feed their people, providing culinary training programs, clean cookstoves, and social-enterprise ventures. 

Since then, WCK has responded during national disasters, including Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the wildfires in Australia and California.

For his work, Andrés was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2018. That same year, he was named Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation. (New Times named him Best Philanthropist in 2018!)

Most recently, WCK has worked to feed people who were left without jobs during COVID, with an emphasis on the culinary community. Last year, before it even opened, Red Rooster Overtown partnered with WCK and Food Rescue US to serve meals to Miamians during the pandemic.

The chef and humanitarian will appear virtually tonight (Monday, May 17) at the Broward College Speaker Series. The topic, "Changing the World Through the Power of Food" will address how everyone can help end hunger by starting with a simple gesture.

In the meantime, New Times checked in with Andrés, hoping to pick up some hints as to how Miamians can help feed their neighbors.

"Growing up, my parents were both nurses, so I saw them every day, helping people, nurturing them back to health," says the chef. "You could maybe say it’s in my blood. I don’t know if there’s another way to live than being present for our neighbors."

Andrés says he started with a simple goal as a chef: to share his favorite Spanish dishes with the people of America. From that came his nonprofit.

"I think that I have always been interested in the horizon and what’s behind it — to try to see just beyond. If we are always keeping our heads up, looking just a little further, we can see what it is that we want to bring to the world.

He'd like to see everyone help in the fight to end hunger, and he says he strongly believes that the movement starts in one's own community.

"Each and every person — you, your family, everyone you know — is able to do so much to help," he says, citing the ease of making a donation at a local food bank or volunteering. Or performing a simple act of kindness on a personal level. "Cook a meal for an elderly friend or a family member who is having a difficult time," the chef suggests.

Andrés also mentions partnering with WCK or any other food-based organization in Miami. "We have been working in South Florida throughout COVID, partnering with restaurants to feed people, but there are so many other organizations in the area as well that are doing amazing work," he notes.

He'd also like to see restaurants continue to serve as community spaces for keeping people fed, as Red Rooster Overtown did during COVID.

"The most important way this can happen is if restaurants are able to get federal support. It shouldn’t just be up to philanthropy to make sure that Americans have enough to eat every day," he says. Andrés believes that a federal program that helps restaurants feed people could help restaurant workers — and everyone throughout the food-supply chain — survive during the pandemic.

Andrés also admonishes organizations to do more than feed people. WCK helps small farmers, fishers, and other small businesses that produce and distribute food at a local level, by providing funding, training, and networking opportunities.

"We always hope to be the inspiration for people who want to serve their own communities. As I look to the future, I see more and more communities who are resilient to disaster, who are well-positioned to take care of themselves through anything," he says.

In the end, says Andrés, helping to fight hunger starts in your own backyard.

"To me, the thing that I am most proud of is that World Central Kitchen is not just me or my team but it has become so many people around the world. Anyone who is stepping up to help their neighbors get fed in a time of need is part of the solution."

José Andrés, "Changing the World Through the Power of Food." Part of the Broward College Speaker Series. Monday, May 17, at 7:30 p.m. virtually via Zoom. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at Registered ticket holders will be provided with a unique Zoom link.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss