At SXSW, José Andrés Shares How the Power of Storytelling Drives His Mission
Chef announces new cookbook inspired by World Central Kitchen’s work
By Melanie Haupt,
5:52PM, Sun. Mar. 12, 2023
Fresh off an appearance at SXSW 2022, supporting the Ron Howard documentary We Feed People, chef José Andrés, founder of the disaster relief NGO World Central Kitchen, sat down with journalist Michele Norris to talk about how stories and storytelling have direct effects on people’s lives.
Explaining that you become who you are based on the people around you, not just your family and friends, but also things like books and culture, Andrés specifically cited John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath as an early influence. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel opened Andrés’ eyes to inequality and suffering, even in America, the land of freedom and plenty. It was through the stories of others, like The Grapes of Wrath’s Joad family, that made the Spanish chef, restaurateur, and humanitarian realize the power of story.
Citing Tom Joad’s declaration that, “Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there,” Andrés said that “we all have a talent that goes beyond what we believe; I’m a cook. I realized I had the talent to feed the few, but I also had the talent to feed the many.”
He and Norris discussed the importance of listening to the voices of the people who need help, like the ones he served in Haiti on one of World Central Kitchen’s missions. He explained how he’d been making black beans for the people affected by earthquakes and received feedback that he wasn’t cooking them in the way the locals were accustomed to preparing and eating them. In that moment, he realized that he had been imposing a certain way of doing things onto a local community, rather than listening to them. “People don’t want our pity,” he said. “They want our respect.”
Andrés mentioned that serving others, building longer tables rather than higher walls, came with no small amount of risk, citing the Russian missile attack that destroyed a WCK facility and killed two in Ukraine last year. “We must all take risks if we want to change the world,” he said, growing emotional. “We need to write new recipes and all take risks, because the old recipes aren’t enough.”
This was a perfect segue for Norris to announce that Andrés is releasing the World Central Kitchen Cookbook: Feeding Humanity, Feeding Hope later this year. The cookbook will feature recipes and narratives from the various locales WCK has served during its 13-year history.
José Andrés: The Stories We Tell Can Change the World
Keynote AddressSat 11, 1pm, Austin Convention Center
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SXSW 2023, Jose Andres, World Central Kitchen