Jose Andres used to be known as a celebrity chef, restaurateur and TV food competition judge who helped popularize the Spanish tapas, or small plates, concept in America.
These days, Andres is better known for rushing to disaster zones to set up emergency kitchens and feed thousands of desperate people.
He has been in the Bahamas since before Hurricane Dorian devastated part of that country, setting up kitchens for a relief effort as he did two years ago in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Andres will share the story of his relief organization, World Central Kitchen, in Lancaster on Sept. 19, when he speaks at the Lancaster Theological Seminary.
His appearance is part of a speakers’ series on community health issues, hosted by the local nonprofit CHI St. Joseph Children’s Health.
“Looking at Jose Andres’ work, particularly around the creation of World Central Kitchen and the response teams that he has been able to create to provide comfort and support to those experiencing hardship, really fit in line with our philosophy and approaches in the community as a whole,” Phil Goropoulos, president of CHI St. Joseph Children’s Health, says.
“While government can be part of the answer, (Andres is) also capable of providing significant answers to the challenges that we face,” Goropoulos says. “So he really fit in with our beliefs and our approaches to how we're taking on children’s health. It’s a natural fit for us to invite him to be part of the series.”
A native of Spain, the 50-year-old Andres is based in Washington, D.C., where he has established such restaurants as Zaytinya, Jaleo and minibar by Jose Andres. He has also established restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, along with Florida and Texas.
Since 2017, his nongovernmental organization, World Central Kitchen, has been using teams of volunteers to establish pop-up kitchens and feed people at sites of natural disasters such as wildfires in California, an earthquake in Indonesia, a cyclone in Mozambique and storm damage and flooding from Nebraska to North Carolina to the Caribbean.
World Central Kitchen also served 100,000 meals to federal employees in Washington during a recent government shutdown.
The organization reports it is feeding anywhere from 13,000 to 20,000 meals a day at kitchens across the Bahamas, large areas of which have been destroyed by Dorian.
World Central Kitchen has used a helicopter and a ship to get food supplies to and around the island. Andres has also been setting up kitchens to feed those who may need post-Dorian help in such places as Florida and North Carolina.
Andres’ accolades include humanitarian of the year from the James Beard Foundation, the list of most influential people by Time magazine and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Andres’ books include “We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time,” which he will be signing at the Sept. 19 event in Lancaster. He has also authored cookbooks including “Vegetables Unleashed” and “Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America.”
And he has been seen competing on “Iron Chef” and judging on “Top Chef” on the Food Network.
“In the Time (magazine) interview he did last year ... he really spoke about how he thinks we could solve world hunger by changing and giving proper cooking techniques and strategies to different communities, as well as addressing some issues around climate change and carbon emissions,” Goropoulos says.
“His work and his musings ... show that he is in the forefront of thinking some of these issues through,” he adds.
The speaker series of which Andres is a part “is designed to bring together different perspectives and unique approaches to what it takes both to be a healthy community and also what it takes to create a healthy community,” Goropoulos says.
Previous speakers have included former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and former Housing and Urban Development secretary — now Democratic presidential candidate — Julian Castro.
Rather than lecturing to the audience, Goropoulos says, Andres prefers a moderated conversation. Goropoulos will be the moderator on Sept. 19, and Andres will take some questions from the audience.
“(Andres’) style is to try to make it conversational,” Goropoulos says, “which I think is to (our) advantage, because we can actually get his input on issues that are of particular importance to Lancaster.
“This gives us the opportunity to kind of pick his brain — as someone who has traveled the world, who has come up with some innovative solutions to disaster response and hunger — and see if he can really unlock some potential for us,” Goropoulos says.
CHI St. Joseph Children’s Health, part of the nationwide Catholic Health Initiatives community health service organization, offers pediatric behavioral health services such as therapy and wellness coaching for children, at its Behavioral Health Center on Lincoln Highway East.
The Lancaster-based organization, formerly operated mobile dental clinics in the area,
As part of its Healthy Columbia initiative, the organization is also building a large day care center, St. John Neumann School for Children and Families, in Columbia. It has also been granted permission to start renovating the Columbia Market House as a farmer’s market and a restaurant.
“We identify that (the Andres appearance) is the kind of conversation we want to engage the community in,” Goropoulos says. “We don’t think creating healthy communities is a political issue. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s about life, and we should be looking at all sides and perspectives.
Goropoulos says having Andres “talk about why farmers markets play an important role and how he sees them fitting into a community is, I think, a good question, especially when you look at his latest (cookbook). It’s all about cooking with vegetables.
“It kind of fits right into his line of how changing how we eat and making sure people have those resources are kind of vital strategies to well-being,” Goropoulos says.
“This is part of an ongoing conversation,” he adds. “You’ll see more speakers coming in who are impacting their communities in positive ways, which is what it’s about.”