José Andrés’ latest humanitarian mission shows why he not only deserves his recent nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, but also why he deserves to win it. The chef has taken his famed World Central Kitchen to the Mexican side of the southern border, where in the last few days he estimates he has fed as many as 3,000 refugees a day. He tells The Washington Post he’s there because he’s compelled to be there.
“’In the end, it’s very simple,” he said. “Our motto comes from John Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’ Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people may eat, I will be there.” The Washington Post reports that “then Andrés put his own amendment on Steinbeck’s famous line: ‘We will be there,’ he added.” Over 30 volunteers are there currently helping a smaller group of World Central Kitchen people.
Andrés, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Spain, has been where there’s disaster—some natural and others man-made—to comfort anyone who is suffering. Denise Oliver-Velez writes that World Central Kitchen was founded after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, though others became aware of his work “when double disasters struck Puerto Rico and the USVI—back-to-back Hurricanes Irma and Maria.”
Most recently before his current mission in Mexico, Andrés joined a number of other chefs to serve thousands of Thanksgiving meals to first responders and Californians affected by the raging Camp Fire that killed at least 80 people and displaced so many others. “This is what it’s all about,” he tweeted at the time. “Our community working side-by-side to serve those in need during these difficult times.”
There have already been difficult times for asylum seekers waiting for a chance to make their case to U.S. authorities, and there will be more difficult times ahead as the administration continues to, relentlessly demonize them while ignoring what they’re fleeing from in the first place. “We forget that people never want to leave their homes,” Andrés said. “We forget that people are attached to the places they leave. The issue here is how desperate people have to be to leave home.”
“If you are a person of faith, you will argue this is the right thing to do,” he added. “If you are a person of love and compassion, this is the right thing to do. If you are a person that believes that pain in the world should go away, this is the right thing to do.”
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