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Meet José Andrés, the Culinary Humanitarian Who is Feeding Ukrainian Refugees

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Positioned at the Polish border, it took less than 72 hours for American chef José Andrés to mobilize the cooking logistics of his humanitarian association to start feeding Ukrainian refugees. The humanitarian chef is also helping restaurant owners by providing them with what they need in order to also participate in the war effort. A look at José Andrés and his history in culinary humanitariansm.

Rava-Ruska (or Rawa-Ruska) is a small Ukrainian town that was once infamous for being the site of a prison camp during World War II. Located less than ten kilometers from the first town on the Polish border, it is here that chef José Andrés is distributing meals to Ukrainian refugees, assisted by nuns who are members of the international confederation of Catholic relief services Caritas. Through his Twitter account and the publication of videos, the American chef, of Spanish origin, presents the logistics of the kitchens of his World Central Kitchen association, which had already distributed more than 8,000 soups, chicken stews and apple pies, as of Sunday via another establishment of his NGO at the Polish border

A humanitarian chef

Feed all those who are fleeing war or trying to escape the damage caused by wrath of the Earth… This is the objective that José Andrés has set for himself with the international commitment he launched in 2010 following the earthquake that devastated Haiti. Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, Hurricane Ida in New Orleans in 2021, the recent floods in Germany are some of the situations that have prompted World Central Kitchen to organize food distribution. Concrete actions for which José Andrés was recognized in 2019 by being named in a list of potential candidates fo the Nobel Peace Prize. A year earlier, the humanist chef was named “Humanitarian of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation.

In the United States, the unfailing commitment of this superstar chef is well known and there has been no shortage of well-deserved accolateds. In fact on March 19, at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, a documentary directed by Ron Howard (of “Apollo 13″ fame) will present a close-up look at how the World Central Kitchen works and organizes its contributors in order to launch into action as soon as the need to feed a certain population arises. The world premiere of the film entitled “We Feed People” is highly anticipated in the culinary sphere. The film is set to hit the Disney+ streaming platform in May.

Beyond the humanitarian issue, José Andrés has also been politically involved in his adopted country for many years. Back in 2012, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. And the American publication did it again in 2018. During the presidential election campaign of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, José Andrés positioned himself as a defender of immigrants. The chef also taught at George Washington University. His credo? Gastronomy as a catalyst for the economy.

While his work to feed the needy has made him popular in the United States, José Andrés first came to fame as a chef. The chef of Spanish origin landed in the US in 1991 and became a naturalized American in 2013 and has long been a propoent of the tapas concept. Distinguished as a food icon by the 2019 World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking, Andrés first established himself as a culinary talent, earning two Michelin stars for his Washington restaurant, named Minibar, when the red guide decided to dedicate a list to the American capital in October 2016. Today, he is at the helm of some 15 culinary concepts, which have spread across the United States, all the way to Dubai and even to the Bahamas.

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