Chef Jose Andres may be best known for his restaurant empire which includes Jaleo and China Poblano, as well as newer, more casual ventures like the Pepe food truck and the vegetable-focused Beefsteak. Andres’ restaurants are widely celebrated for their inventive, playful cuisine, and the chef is using his global network to recruit chefs and others in the industry to fight world hunger through World Central Kitchen. SmartBrief interviewed Andres on how the non-profit evolved and how it is working to find smart solutions to hunger and poverty.
How did World Central Kitchen evolve from DC Central Kitchen?
I was a young chef, brand new to Washington, when my partner Rob Wilder introduced me to Robert Egger and his DC Central Kitchen. It was a bolt of lightning to my mind, to see how food that would be wasted got redistributed, and people could turn their lives around. Through the years, we have worked hard and have had fun learning together. When the earthquake devastated Haiti, I knew I had to go — don’t ask me why, I just knew. I started to think about DC Central Kitchen and then thought, why can’t we take this idea to someplace bigger? Why not the world? I hired Brian MacNair, who used to work at DC Central Kitchen, to be the Executive Director of World Central Kitchen. So there are connections in the ideas, and on the ground.
How does WCK use food as an agent of change?
Food has the power to change the world! It can financially support an orphanage, through the bakery and fish restaurant World Central Kitchen has established in Port-au-Prince. It can empower a young woman to support her community, when she becomes a cook at our smart school kitchen in the mountains of Haiti, or when she attends our culinary school.
And maybe most important — the simple act of providing a clean cookstove, rather than traditional, smoky cooking techniques, can change so much. Better health for families, because the smoke goes away. More education for children, because they don’t need to gather the wood for the fire. And less deforestation for the land, because the trees can grow again.
What can chefs and others in the food industry do on a local level to help solve hunger and poverty?
I would say, look around you! There are people who struggle in every city, every day, and not always in the obvious places. Chefs have so many skills to share- not only with a knife, but in making a business a success. At World Central Kitchen we have an amazing Chef Network of people who want to help. Like Chef Erik Bruner-Yang — he visited our wonderful partner Dog Tag Bakery and talked to our veterans about culinary and business skills. All this right here in Washington, D.C., people!
How does WCK use events to raise awareness of issues and build excitement around giving back?
Dine-N-Dash is the big event for World Central Kitchen, and it is a way to recreate the fun and the spontaneity of a restaurant crawl in my home country of Spain. You meet your family and friends and you go for a stroll, maybe have a little bite and a drink at one place, then move on. With Dine-N-Dash we can showcase the best of the food community here in Washington while also doing good. This year we brought Dine-N-Dash to Las Vegas, with a stage, with a lot of energy. Someday I hope there will be Dine-N-Dashes in cities all over the world.
What is your proudest moment or biggest accomplishment so far related to WCK?
I am the Culinary Ambassador for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, so I am proud of the work we have done converting school kitchens in Haiti away from charcoal stoves and to liquefied petroleum gas- LPG. That’s a way to fuel a clean cookstove with gas when there are no pipes to supply your building. With our partner Switch Haiti we converted 100 schools to clean cookstoves. This year we will convert 100 more. But the schools, they are only the beginning. They are like a Trojan Horse for getting the idea of a clean cookstove into the minds of the children’s parents and families. This is a movement and we are just getting started.
The 19th Annual Championship BBQ and Cookout at Galleria Marchetti in Chicago on Sunday, May 22 will highlight the talents of 13 chefs while supporting World Central Kitchen, an international organization founded by Jose Andres to focus on smart solutions to ending hunger and poverty. SmartBrief is the media sponsor of this event. For more information and to RSVP, visit info.smartbrief.com/BBQ.
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