Chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen are a lifeline in Ukraine's sea of sadness. They've been there for months, feeding thousands of Ukrainians whose lives have been turned upside down by the conflict.
Andrés has been back and forth since Russia's incursion began in February, spending more than 40 days in Ukraine. And that isn't all that odd for him. Andrés has been bringing his non-profit kitchen to the front lines of disaster for the past 12 years. From earthquake-ravaged Haiti to hurricane-battered Houston, they've served over 60 million meals.
In Ukraine, though, things are a little different: it's the first time chef Andrés and his team have worked in a conflict zone.
A Russian missile destroyed one of the kitchens his group was running in Kharkiv on April 16. "We had four wounded people with World Central Kitchen, and they went to the hospital, and thank God, everybody was alright," he stated.
The truth is that the attack only slowed them down somewhat. He told correspondent Tracy Smith, "What transpired in the hours after was extraordinary." "When the restaurant's owner asked the crew, "What do you want to do?" they answered, "We want to keep cooking." We'd like to keep fighting.'"
Chef José Andrés makes an emotional plea while assisting in the feeding of Ukrainian migrants near the Polish border.
The director Ron Howard's documentary "We Feed People," which will be available on Disney+ later this month, is about that drive to keep serving in the face of adversity.
The truth is that the attack did little more than slow them down. He told Tracy Smith, a correspondent, ""What happened in the hours that followed was incredible." "We want to keep cooking," the staff said when asked what they wanted to do by the restaurant's owner. "We want to keep battling.""
While assisting in the feeding of Ukrainian migrants near the Polish border, chef José Andrés makes an emotional plea.
It's difficult to imagine how he manages to fit everything in. Andrés is also a hugely successful restaurateur, having over two dozen restaurants and food trucks around the United States. His World Central Kitchen, on the other hand, has become his calling card. He launched it after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Andrés and his team will often rescue whatever remains of restaurant kitchens on the ground and collaborate with locals to provide comfort food for thousands using local recipes.
"You know why I love to travel to these places?" Andrés explained. Because, as I always say, humanity's best tends to manifest itself in its darkest moments.
And what I get, the inspiration I get from every single member of the World Central Kitchen, as well as the new people that join us in the midst of the mayhem, is a gift I'll never be able to repay."
Smith hooked up with the chef in New York City for a brief encounter: he was on his way to Spain, and then back to Ukraine.
"And now you're in on it as well, Ron?" she inquired.
Howard said, "Well, I'm pleased to be a part of it." "It's a privilege."
Andrés initially resisted about shooting the film because he was concerned that it would be all about him, according to Howard. "'This is indeed World Central Kitchen,' he added, hesitantly. I also don't want a camera following me about, attempting to tell "The José Story.""
Howard persuaded him by bringing up a film he'd previously directed, "Apollo 13," about a spaceship explosion and the people on the ground who gave their all to bring the astronauts home alive. "Teams coming together and fixing a problem is what I love," Howard added.
""Apollo 13" is also the film that got Howard interested in telling true stories, despite the fact that one of the audience members felt Howard was making it up at an early test screening: "I recall, it was a 23-year-old Caucasian male, rated it low, wouldn't suggest it." 'Terrible!' he wrote. 'More Hollywood nonsense!!' Using two exclamation points. 'They'd never make it!!!' There are three exclamation points! I realized he had no idea it was a true story, and he thought it was ridiculous. 'This is why you choose these subjects, why you create a story based on true events, because you chose the subject where you say, 'How the hell could that have happened?' I thought."
"I mean, I know that very often people think we do the impossible possible," said Andrés. "And I would love to tell you that what we do, we are the only people capable on planet Earth to do it. But this is far away from the truth. What we do is not so special."
What makes them unique is that they volunteer to help right now, not next week or tomorrow.
Smith asked, "Why do you think it works? I know you say, 'We don't have meetings, we don't make announcements, we just go'?"
"If we say we don't plan, it's because, every hour you are planning for something is one hour you are missing of being on the ground, feeding people," he replied. "And sometimes you say, 'But you need to organize to start feeding people.' Well, not really.
"You can always be driving, and you may decide to make right or make left, and you don't know if you're taking the right turn. But let me tell you one thing, my friend: you will only be able to turn right or left if you are moving forward. It's never a wrong decision in an emergency if actually you are making things happen. Because you have the next day to correct that decision. At the end, it's always good, because you are moving. You are driving forward. You are meeting the needs of the people."
People like Chef José Andrés have truly made the motto "leave no one behind" their life's work. By traveling the world with his team and preparing food for disadvantaged people in regions devastated by war or natural disasters, he forms part of the group that makes up the Global Society. In the process, he puts himself and his team in dicey and life-threatening situations. It is not always necessary to put oneself in mortal danger to be part of a global society and do good. But José Andrés sets a good example and represents a personality that serves as a role model for many people.