Considering the James Beard Foundation's 2018 theme is honoring chefs and industry leaders who rise to the occasion, we can't imagine a chef who embodies that message better than José Andrés. To date, the chef has served more than 3.3 million meals to the Hurricane Maria survivors in Puerto Rico, after spending time in Houston and Florida to provide hurricane relief. Andrés, who won the James Bear award for Outstanding Chef in 2011 for minibar as well as winning Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic in 2003 for Jaleo, will be presented with the 2018 Humanitarian of the Year award at The James Beard Foundation Awards Gala in Chicago on May 7.
José’s work in Puerto Rico and Haiti shows how chefs can use their expertise and unique skills to enact profound change on a global scale, said Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation. He has demonstrated how, at the most difficult times, hot-cooked meals provide more than nutrition, they provide dignity. And we couldn’t imagine a more fitting honoree this year as we celebrate how chefs and our industry Rise.
The chef has long been a proponent of giving back and involving chefs in the national debate on food policy, but after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, he stepped it up a notch and formed World Central Kitchen, a non-profit dedicated to ending hunger and poverty by empowering communities through food. After the devastating Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, he galvanized volunteers and other chefs via #ChefsforPuertoRico and World Central Kitchen to serve as the primary source of food for the island, though his work in the area is still ongoing -- he posted an update on Twitter on February 17.
Whether it’s teaching and preparing a meal alongside people who have just started a new chapter, empowering communities through clean cookstoves, or cooking meals for people who have experienced unimaginable devastation, I’ve learned that food is powerful, said Andrés. It nourishes, but it also has the power to be an agent of hope and change.
As if this news wasn't enough, Anthony Bourdain Books/Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, has just announced that it will be publishing Andrés' book "We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time" in September. The release is part of Bourdain's first line of books at Ecco. A portion of proceeds from the book will be donated to the Chef Relief Network of World Central Kitchen
With a fraction of the resources available to the government, huge non-profits or NGOs, José Andrés and World Central Kitchen fed hundreds of thousands of desperate people in Puerto Rico, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, said Bourdain. Their ingenuity, creativity and fortitude deserve to be recognized, and recorded and replicated as a practical blueprint for how humans can and should best react in the face of disaster. To say that I am proud to publish this book, and to help tell this vital story, is a vast understatement.