Celebrity Chef's Aid Group in Spotlight After Fatal Strike

Jose Andres' World Central Kitchen was delivering food in Gaza when hit by Israeli forces
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2024 11:27 AM CDT
Behind Aid Group Hit in Israel: a Hard-Charging Chef
Jose Andres, a Spanish chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, unloads the humanitarian food packages delivered with WCK's truck in Kherson, Ukraine, on Nov. 15, 2022.   (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)

The Israeli airstrike that killed seven workers with the charity World Central Kitchen in Gaza has focused attention not just on WCK but on its high-profile founder, chef and restaurateur Jose Andres.

  • About him: The 54-year-old is a native of Spain who moved to the US at age 21 and has become a twice Michelin-starred chef, report the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg in profiles. He started WCK in 2010 with his wife, Patricia, to feed people after a massive earthquake in Haiti, per Reuters. The nongovernmental organization has since expanded to become one of the biggest organizations of its kind in the world, operating in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and other global hot spots.

  • Big personality: Andres is described as a force, and he's well-connected with both world leaders and celebs. The Journal notes that he plugged his latest cookbook on Jimmy Fallon's show. He also famously bowed out of a deal to open a restaurant in DC's Trump International Hotel in 2015 after Trump made disparaging remarks about migrants, notes Variety.
  • Example: The Journal provides an example of how Andres operates. Earlier this year, he used a tugboat to deliver 200 tons of food from Cyprus to the shores of Gaza, before any infrastructure was in place for such an undertaking (the port had been bombed). He also flew to Tel Aviv "to charm Israeli officials into supporting his initiative." By the time the US announced plans to build a pier, Andres "was already two steps ahead of the world's mightiest fighting force." As the Journal puts it, "making such leaps is the signature of the chef's philanthropy."
  • On the downside: The Bloomberg profile, published late last year, reports that Andres' hard-charging style comes with risks. Some former employees accuse him of putting them in too-dangerous situations because of rash decisions made on the fly. In one message to a staffer in Haiti, he urged the person to "go against his [judgment] of safety" and operate "guerrilla style." The profile also details controversies at WCK, including its late response to a sexual harassment scandal (not involving Andres) and its loss of money to fraud. Read it in full here.
  • Documentary: Ron Howard made a documentary called We Feed People focusing on Andres and WCK in 2022. "Many people always say, 'Jose, you are very hard on everybody,'" the chef says in the film after he's seen yelling at an employee, notes Bloomberg. "I would love to be the nice guy all the time. 'Good job, good job, good job.' I am sorry. ... When it ain't happening, everything is [BLEEP]."
(More World Central Kitchen stories.)

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