Marvin Joseph—The Washington Post/Getty Images

The chef was recognized for his extensive humanitarian work in Puerto Rico and Haiti.  

Maria Yagoda
February 21, 2018

José Andrés has won multiple James Beard Awards over his decades-long culinary career, but he's just received an extra special one.

On Wednesday morning, the James Beard Foundation recognized the Spanish-born chef as Humanitarian of the Year for his advocacy on food and hunger issues, particularly with his non-profit, World Central Kitchen, which has been a leading force in post-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico relief efforts. In conjunction with #ChefsForPuertoRico, WCK has served over 3.3 million meals to Puerto Ricans in the wake of the hurricane's devastation. 

“José’s work in Puerto Rico and Haiti shows how chefs can use their expertise and unique skills to enact profound change on a global scale," said Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation, in a statement. "He has demonstrated how, at the most difficult times, hot-cooked meals provide more than nutrition, they provide dignity. And we couldn’t imagine a more fitting honoree this year as we celebrate how chefs and our industry Rise.”

This has been a big week for Andrés. Just one day prior, Fast Company named WCK the second most innovative company in food. The chef, however, is still very focused on his work in Puerto Rico, even as national attention has dimmed (despite the continued gravity of the situation). In a recent tweet, Andrés remarked that schools in Punta Santiago are closing at 11:30 a.m. because they can't feed the students.

Founded in 2012, André's non-profit has received enormous press over the past year for not only its work in Puerto Rico, but also for being a first responder in the wake of Houston’s Hurricane Harvey and the Southern California’s wildfires

“I am honored to be receiving and sharing this award with my team at World Central Kitchen, #ChefsforPuertoRico, #ChefsforCalifornia, good friends like Robert Egger and LA Kitchen, DC Central Kitchen and all of the incredible people I have been fortunate to meet over the years through the simple act of cooking a hot meal," Andrés said in a statement about receiving the award. "Whether it’s teaching and preparing a meal alongside people who have just started a new chapter, empowering communities through clean cookstoves, or cooking meals for people who have experienced unimaginable devastation, I’ve learned that food is powerful. It nourishes, but it also has the power to be an agent of hope and change."