Food might not be the first thing you think of when you picture World Peace. Distracted by daily disasters and seismic events, we tend to take how and what we eat for granted - forgetting that without our food, things would fall apart seriously quickly. If people can’t be fed, resolving any other issues becomes kind of irrelevant. It is perhaps for this reason that the nomination of inspirational activist chef José Andrés for a Nobel Peace Prize should really be much less surprising than it is.
Joining an illustrious list of former nominees and winners, including Barack Obama, Malala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela, Andrés has been recognised for his tireless work in the relief effort following the disastrous Hurricane Maria that struck Puerto Rico in September 2017. According to a report in “Eater”, the legendary chef “did more to feed the Americans of Puerto Rico...than any other single government or non-government agency,” overcoming “failures of leadership, bureaucracy, lack of financial aid, corruption, and an almost complete lack of infrastructure” in the process.
The Washington Post were the first to report that Andrés had been nominated by Representative John Delaney, the Democratic congressman from Maryland. He is currently one of around 300 individuals to be nominated for this year’s prize - the winner of which won’t be formally announced until 2019 - but if he were to win it, it would mark the first time that a chef has claimed the prestigious award.
Though Andrés is currently in the spotlight thanks to his help in the Puerto Rico disaster, his activism actually goes back a lot further. Born in Spain in 1969, he first came to the attention of global humanitarians in the aftermath of the devastating Haitian earthquake in 2010, when he established his non-profit organisation, “World Central Kitchen” - a group dedicated to providing food relief all over the world and feeding anyone who falls hungry in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
Whilst much of his recent charity work has focused on Puerto Rico, Andrés was also instrumental in supporting victims of last month’s California wildfires. Alongside fellow chefs Guy Fieri and Tyler Florence, Andrés served Thanksgiving meals to 15,000 Californians who had been affected by the disaster, cooking for several hours alongside emergency services and other volunteers.
Upon hearing the news of his nomination, Andrés was typically self-effacing. Replying to the philanthropist and businessman Ted Leonsis on Twitter, he wrote, “I don’t know if it is true, but if it is, I’m humbled by it.,” adding, “I’m one more guy between thousands of people helping feed people in need, every day around the world, unrecognized...” In the age of celebrity cooking, it can be easy to forget that, at its heart, food is about nothing more or less than keeping us alive. If there’s one cook that proves that food can and should play a role in the effort to build a better world, it has to be the heroic and humble José Andrés.