Could a Chef Win the Nobel Peace Prize?

José Andrés, Spanish chef extraordinaire, has received a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nomination for his humanitarian work feeding people in crisis. His work in Puerto Rico alone is enough to impress and to raise the spirits of a jaded cynic. In tandem with 26 restaurants and 20,000 volunteers, his organization made 3.7 million meals for Puerto Ricans left destitute by Hurricane Maria in 2017. He co-wrote a book about his experience, We Fed an Island, which is next on my reading list.

This decade, he has reached the highest levels as a restaurateur, earning two Michelin stars for his restaurant, minibar with José Andrés in 2016. This celebrity chef has founded 30 restaurants in the United States, including Jaleo in DC (jaleo is cheering, muddling mess, brawl or commotion.) Andrés has brought the tradition of Spanish small plates, appetizers called tapas, to a wider audience.

Tortilla española – Spanish omelette             Photo Credit: Rebecca Cuningham


In 2010, Señor Andrés held a press conference at Jaleo, saying he wanted to give back. He founded an organization called, World Central Kitchen that provides food to combat hunger and poverty, and to enact disaster relief around the globe. Taking the skills he used to make successful restaurants worldwide, he and WCK plan, organize, cook and deliver fresh meals to people in need. In addition, he is involved with DC’s Central Kitchen which teaches culinary skills to unemployed people and feeds the homeless.

This Spanish chef may not win the Nobel Peace Prize, but he has earned the 2018 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year award. He was the first chef to win the Spanish Order of the Arts and Letters Medallion in 2010. Andrés was presented with James Beard Outstanding Chef Award in 2011, the 2012 Español Universal Prize, and the Hispanic Heritage Award in 2013, to list a handful of his numerous achievements. An immigrant from Spain, Andrés became a US citizen in 2013. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Maryland.

My favorite quote from José Andrés is “I don’t open restaurants to make money. I open restaurants to tell a story.” That is an amazing business model, and the proof is in the flan (baked Spanish pudding)…

Gracias for reading! Olé! -Rebecca

Para leer este ensayo en español, haz un clic en ¿Podría ganar un chef el Premio Nobel de Paz?

Photo credit: Rebecca Cuningham
Rebecca Cuningham

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