Famed chef and restaurateur José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen (WCK) organization are again using food to bring people sustenance and reassurance during uncertain times.
On March 15, Chef Andrés announced on Twitter that, like many other big-name restaurateurs, he was closing all his D.C. area restaurants until further notice to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Some of the locations, he added, will be converted to temporary WCK Community Kitchens as “a service for people in need of a plate of food during this emergency.” His New York City-based Mercado Little Spain will also transform into a Community Kitchen at this time.
Just one day later, World Central Kitchen announced two more initiatives. The organization will be offering fresh, prepackaged to-go meals at seven community locations throughout the Bronx, New York. They will also be working with The Clinton Foundation to provide meals for Arkansas schoolchildren who may otherwise go without food due to school closings.
These outreach initiatives are not WCK’s first coronavirus-related undertakings. Over the past month, Andrés and WCK have been working to feed passengers and crew quarantined onboard two Princess cruise ships due to coronavirus outbreaks — first off the coast of Japan, and then off the coast of California. To maintain safety and prevent the spread of the virus, food was prepared in onshore kitchen facilities, and then forklifted to the ships for onboard distribution.
In an interview with the blog Fine Dining Lovers, World Central Kitchen CEO Nate Mook described the logistics that went into serving those onboard the ships. He said it took two weeks to create a safe, sanitary supply chain to cook and bring the food to passengers. When a second ship was then quarantined, WCK already had the plans in place to create a similar system in California quickly and efficiently. Mook explained further in the interview:
“We work with people in the culinary industry, we work with chefs, with restaurants all over the world and as this crisis progresses, and it’s really going to require all of us working together — the NGO sector like us, working with the private sector and also governments and the public sector. Chefs can play a central role in this crisis.”
Chef Andrés and his wife Patricia founded WCK a decade ago to “create smart solutions to hunger and poverty” through initiatives like clean cookstoves and culinary training. Today, Andrés and WCK are probably best known for their work in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017, when the team served more than 3.6 million meals to people across the island. In 2018, Andrés was named Humanitarian of the Year at the 3BL Forum: "Brands Taking Stands."
Since the efforts in Puerto Rico, Andrés and WCK have gone on to feed communities facing natural disasters in countries including Mozambique, Guatemala and Haiti. They have also fed those in need in the U.S., serving meals to those affected by hurricanes in the Carolinas, a volcanic eruption in Hawaii, and the ongoing wildfires in California.
As unknowns continue to sweep the globe during this coronavirus pandemic, the good food provided by Chef José Andrés and his team at World Central Kitchen is providing at least some comfort. As Andrés tweeted when announcing his D.C. Community Kitchens: “This is about We The People. Each of us has a responsibility to act for others, not just ourselves. We are all together in this fight ... and we will win.”
If you would like to help World Central Kitchen, visit https://wck.org/chefsforamerica.
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Image credit: World Central Kitchen/Facebook
Megan is a writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. She is the author of Show Up and Bring Coffee, a book highlighting how to support friends who are parents of disabled children. You can follow her at JoyfulBraveAwesome.com.