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‘Stop Planning and Start Cooking.’ José Andrés on the Power of Food in the Midst of Tragedy

2 minute read

Chef José Andrés knows the key to being a successful professional cook is the ability to adapt in unpredictable situations.

“Stop planning and start cooking,” the Spanish-born cook, restauranteur and humanitarian said during an interview with Martha Stewart at the TIME 100 Summit.

Since 2010, Andrés has rushed to disaster zones wrecked by shattering events like hurricanes, earthquakes and cyclones to do what he was professionally trained to do: provide food to the people who need it. Chefs, he said, are specifically equipped to respond to tragedy.

“A kitchen is chaos. Cooks like me are genetically engineered to adapt to chaos,” he said. “We can be a good force of change to feed the many.”

Andrés has worked in disaster relief efforts for nearly a decade since founding the non-profit organization World Central Kitchen in 2010. The group provided more than 3 million meals in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria; the effort landed Andrés a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nomination. World Central Kitchen has also helped feed people in the aftermaths of wildfires in California, flooding in Nebraska and, recently, a cyclone in Mozambique.

After years of providing meals around the world, Andrés said he wants to be a part of a system that ends world hunger — and he doesn’t care if people think that’s “crazy.”

“I don’t mind that you tell me, ‘You’re pretentious and crazy,'” he said. “If we don’t start doing that thinking, nothing is going to happen.”

Andrés offered a solution that would help in eradicating hunger: open up access to clean cooking to the nearly three billion people in the world who use charcoal or wood in preparing their meals, creating fossil fuels. “Until we don’t end those three billion people stopping cooking with fossil fuels and we give them the same technology we have in our homes — the same clean technology, the same clean gas — so they can feed their families in a clean way, poverty and hunger will never end,” he said.

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Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com