José Andrés has a mission: to feed the hungry. The Spain-born chef, now a U.S. citizen, does that at a high level of sophistication in the more than 30 restaurants he owns and runs with his ThinkFoodGroup. But he delivers urgently needed sustenance to millions more through his charitable organization, World Central Kitchen (WCK).
"I'm just a cook," Andrés told Wine Spectator recently as he was driving from his home in Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, where his team was opening 10 new meal sites in partnership with the city's public school system. "But cooks know how to feed people. Our goal is to address the blind spots in the system. We are serving health care providers, hospitals and nursing homes, police, firefighters and National Guard troops, along with unemployed people, hungry families and the homeless."
To support those efforts, the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation has announced a contribution of $250,000 to WCK.
Andrés founded WCK to respond to the earthquake that shattered Haiti in 2010. The organization earned global attention for its work in Puerto Rico, where it served more than 4 million meals after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017. It has launched feeding missions in 13 countries, serving some 15 million meals and corralling more than 45,000 volunteers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented its biggest challenge yet. WCK was on the scene early, helping feed passengers quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. WCK is now working in the U.S. to safely distribute individually packaged fresh meals in communities that need support. With a new program called #ChefsForAmerica, WCK has served nearly 1.5 million fresh meals across the country, currently clocking in at 160,000 per day and rising. #ChefsForAmerica is active in more than 85 cities.
"José Andrés deserves enormous credit for his work feeding people in need," said Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator. "This donation is intended to help feed Americans who have lost jobs due to COVID-19, including restaurant workers, as well as front-line health care workers and other vulnerable groups."
"WCK is an organization of food people, and Wine Spectator touches everyone in our industry," Andrés said. "Wine Spectator brings us together—not only winemakers, sommeliers and chefs, but everyone from the vineyard workers to the dishwashers. Having the publication support our organization means a lot to us in this moment."