Impeached president Donald Trump would have preferred to push the coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess cruise ship back out to sea to never be seen again rather than dock it in California and deal with it responsibly and humanely the way a competent leader would. Chef José Andrés, on the other hand, was catching a 6:30 AM flight from New Jersey to San Francisco straight to the ship, he revealed in a must-read TIME magazine profile, where he’s deservedly on the cover.
“Andrés’ rapidly expanding charity, World Central Kitchen, is as prepared as anyone for this moment of unprecedented global crisis,” TIME reported. “The nonprofit stands up field kitchens to feed thousands of people fresh, nourishing, often hot meals as soon as possible at the scene of a hurricane, earthquake, tornado or flood”—and now, while Trump intentionally fumbles another yet disaster, a pandemic.
TIME said that after Andrés landed and visited World Central Kitchen’s operation at the University of San Francisco, he that night “huddled with leaders of an Oakland-based company, Revolution Foods, who have contracts to cook and deliver school lunches: they’ve continued operating during the COVID-19 emergency. Andrés urged the company’s CEO and head chef to isolate cooks so they steer clear of infection. He coached them on forging partnerships: with restaurants ordered shuttered, Andrés noted, many cooks will soon be out of work and itching to help.”
“’My friends,’ Andrés told his staff, ‘maybe this is why World Central Kitchen was created,’” TIME continued. “It was during Hurricane Maria that Andrés learned to cut through government bureaucracy to fill a leadership vacuum and feed the masses. From a niche nonprofit supporting sustainable-food and clean-cooking initiatives in underdeveloped countries like Haiti, World Central Kitchen has become the world’s most prominent first responder for food.”
It’s an organization that operates with both heart and efficiency. I got a chance to volunteer for a few hours at the University of San Francisco kitchen, where volunteers and organization staff worked side by side to box up meals (and I left with a great hand-washing technique I use every day since San Francisco has gone into sheltering-in-place mode, thanks to World Central Kitchen). Folks in fact were so eager to help, that a staffer said someone had driven up from southern California to volunteer.
In the days since the Grand Princess, the coronavirus outbreak has become a pandemic, with a record number of Americans filing for unemployment as restaurant businesses all across the U.S. have been affected, some going into to-go mode only, many others closed entirely. Andrés’ D.C.-area restaurants were among them, but rather than letting them stay dark, he turned a number of them into community kitchens where folks can pick up to-go meals to have at home. And, of course, he’s paid his workers during this closure.
“In the absence of action from the administration, Chef José Andrés once again is taking charge, caring for people in need and unifying the nation,” Pili Tobar of immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice said, and doing it while lifting up the work of immigrants, “who continue to harvest, serve, and shelve food so we can eat,” Tobar said. For them—and for him—we are grateful.
Read the entire TIME profile on José Andrés here.