How José Andrés and His Corps of Cooks Became Leaders in Disaster Aid

World Central Kitchen’s rise as one of the world’s most agile and far-flung emergency feeding operations has been fueled by two powerful forces: chefs who know how to organize kitchens quickly in the most extreme circumstances, and the undeniable charisma of the chef José Andrés, a wealthy, well-connected restaurateur driven to feed people in disaster zones even when it seems impossible.

On Monday, seven workers from the organization were killed by an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip. They had just unloaded 100 tons of food at a warehouse in Deir al Balah, a city in the central Gaza Strip, and were headed out in a car branded with the organization’s logo and two armored vehicles. One of those killed was a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, and the others were from Australia, Britain, Gaza and Poland.

“I am heartbroken and grieving for their families and friends and our whole WCK family,” Mr. Andres said in a statement on the social media platform X. The organization has stopped feeding people there while it assesses what to do next.

Volunteers for World Central Kitchen cooking and packaging hot food last month for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.Credit…@Chefjoseandres Via X/UGC, via @Chefjoseandres Via Reuters

The scope of the global reaction to the killings — in a war that has already resulted in the deaths of at least 203 other aid workers, according to the Aid Security Workers Database — is, in part, a reflection of the visibility of World Central Kitchen.

The idea for the organization came to Mr. Andrés in 2010, when he cooked with Haitians who were living in a camp after an earthquake. They taught him how to prepare beans as local cooks would, and he realized that making dishes specific to a region was essential to comforting people in a disaster. From there, he helped build schools and train cooks in Haiti and other countries.

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