FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — When Jose Andres first came to New York City, the wide-eyed sailor in the Spanish navy docked on West 30th Street full of ambition. Decades later, the award-winning chef has an upscale food hall on that very street and will serve 40,000 meals this week across the city where he built his dreams, and which is now the U.S. epicenter of the Coronavirus.
Andres, whose restaurants in the United States include The Bazaar, Jaleo and the two Michelin-starred Somni, founded World Central Kitchen in 2010. It has served over 15 million meals worldwide after hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters.
Since the pandemic, his organization has served more than 750,000 meals from Miami and Los Angeles to Little Rock, Arkansas, and Fairfax, Virginia. It works out of places like libraries, food trucks and shuttered restaurants, feeding 125 hospitals, students in school lunch programs and even quarantined cruise ship passengers.
Andres has amassed an A-list network around the world, relying on celebrity chef pals including Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri and Marcus Samuelsson to feed the hungry and buoy the humble restaurant kitchens across America where many started their careers.
“I’m in debt to America. ... That’s the best I can give to America because America gave me a home. America gave me opportunity,” Andres told The Associated Press in a recent
In New York City, he set up a cafe to serve the Mount Sinai field hospital in Central Park. In Harlem, he’s using “Chopped” TV judge Samuelsson’s Red Rooster restaurant to feed families.
Samuelsson’s Miami restaurant hasn’t opened to the public yet, but instead of leaving it empty, he turned it over to World Central Kitchen. They are serving sandwiches and salads there to laid-off hospitality workers, homeless residents and Uber drivers.
Even in crisis, these top chefs aren’t serving bland porridge. Recent meals at senior centers in Washington, D.C., included creamy tomato pasta with spring vegetables, and cilantro rice bowls with spiced chickpeas and spinach topped with citrus vinaigrette and crispy tortillas.
Andres was among the first to close his restaurants, hoping to create a blueprint for chefs around the world on how to use their restaurants and employ workers while feeding the hungry.
In California, Fieri is on standby, ready with a 48-foot-long rescue kitchen and support team. “Guy is ready to go,” Andres said. “This is like war. You need to have troops ready for action.”