In the last few months, chef and philanthropist José Andrés’ nonprofit rapid-response group World Central Kitchen has continued its mission of delivering fresh meals to people in crisis zones all over the world, including in Acapulco, Mexico, following Hurricane Otis making landfall there on Oct. 25.
“The World Central Kitchen teams have been in Maui after the wildfires, the earthquakes in Morocco and now Afghanistan, aiding refugees in Armenia, and we continue to provide meals in hard-to-reach parts of Ukraine,” Andrés tells The Music news, adding that, “In each of these times of hardship, destruction and disaster what you also find is that the best of humanity shows up. I see this simple truth time and time again. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you believe, where you come from, in these moments of grief and great loss there is at the same time profound strength.”
To help support the mission of World Central Kitchen (WCK), the chef — who has two restaurants in Los Angeles, San Laurel and Agua Viva — is now putting on a dinner series called Feeding Hope L.A. that will take place across the city Nov. 5 through Nov. 9.
The series kicks off on Nov. 5 with a free event at Smorgasburg L.A. (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at ROW DTLA, 777 S. Alameda St.), where visitors can enjoy bites, learn stories about people who the nonprofit has helped around the world and check out the new World Central Kitchen Cookbook. The book includes recipes inspired by the many places around the world where WCK has cooked, plus recipes shared by Michelle Obama, Meghan Markle, Ayesha Curry, Guy Fieri and more; author proceeds from sales benefit WCK’S emergency relief efforts.
The Feeding Hope L.A. series continues with three special dinners cooked by an all-star roster of chefs — all of whom are members of WCK’s Chef Corps — including Evan Funke, Giada De Laurentiis, Michael Voltaggio, Stephanie Izard, Nyesha Arrington, Ruffo Ibarra and Reem Assil. Tickets for the dinners — which will be held at Citizen News (Nov. 7), NeueHouse Venice Beach (Nov. 8) and The Line L.A. (Nov. 9) — cost $350.
Each dinner will feature a menu that highlights flavors and ingredients from places where WCK has responded in times of crisis. “So many of the amazing friends of our WCK Chef Corps will be cooking foods from places where we have responded, opening their kitchens to celebrate the power food has to unite us,” says Andrés.
Since its founding in 2010, WCK has served more than 300 million meals around the globe, working with local restaurants and food trucks and prioritizing purchasing local ingredients. But Andrés says his message is that anyone can help make the world a better place: “You don’t need to start with a giant, impossible idea, then sometimes you end up doing nothing at all. You start with what you know. That is how I got started, by cooking. If you are a writer, write. If you make movies, make a movie. We each have our ways, but if we share one thing, it is empathy. If we share this vision for how to make the world a better place — and tell the story of helping others — then you can inspire your community to come along with you!”
Andrés opened his restaurant San Laurel and Agua Viva last year; both are located at the Conrad Los Angeles hotel in downtown Los Angeles. He plans to open a third spot, Bazaar Meat, there next year as well.
“Our restaurants are literally in the shadow of Frank Gehry’s beautiful concert hall, with the backdrop of the mountains on the other side,” says Andrés. “Los Angeles is an incredibly diverse city with so many options – I love L.A.! The farmers markets here are spectacular, with fresh produce coming from the Central Coast down to San Diego. I had an amazing dinner at Anajak Thai recently in Sherman Oaks, and was so impressed by Justin Pichetrungsi.”
He also tells THR that he believes Los Angeles and the U.S. as a whole can bring about major change when it comes to hunger and food insecurity — if people will come together in a shared vision.
“What I’ve learned over the years, in my home of Washington D.C., around L.A. in the 15 years since I opened my first restaurant here, and in my work with World Central Kitchen — it’s that chefs like me can feed the few, but we have all the skills to feed the many,” he says. “We need to invest more in social enterprises and nonprofits that embrace the true power of food to empower people and heal our communities. This city — and our country — has all the resources and technology to put an end to hunger, but first we must have the political will to prioritize food as part of the solution.”