The chef who feeds people in disaster zones may win a Nobel Peace Prize

Chef José Andrés has been playing food politics for years.
Chef José Andrés has been playing food politics for years.
Image: Courtesy of Kent Miller
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He took on US president Donald Trump and fed more than a million hungry people. Now José Andrés, that gregarious Spanish chef with a flare for politics, has been nominated for a coveted Nobel Peace Prize.

Nominations to the Norwegian Nobel Committee are typically kept secret, but congressman John Delaney told The Washington Post (paywall) this week that he himself had nominated Andrés for the award after witnessing the breadth of his humanitarian work in Puerto Rico and other places following the scourge of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

With the island territory blotted in darkness after hurricane-related power outages, access to good food and potable water became an issue of necessity for the 1.5 million people who remained without power for 328 days after the storm hit. Trump was criticized—including by Andrés—for a lackluster response to a crisis (paywall) situation in which at least 2,900 people died.

When he isn’t in one of his kitchens, Andrés has committed himself to setting up shop in Florida, North Carolina, and Guatemala following other hurricanes. Partnering with ThinkGoodGroup and non-profit group World Central Kitchen, he dives into disaster zones and sets up a mobile operation for feeding hungry people. On Thanksgiving, instead of spending the holiday at home, the chef was in California, feeding 15,000 hot meals to survivors of the fires that have ravaged swaths of the state.

Across the decades there have been a handful of Nobel laureates with food-related backgrounds. In 1904, Ivan Petrovich Pavlov won for his work to better understand how the stomach digests food. In 1929, Christiaan Eijkman won for early work developing the concept of vitamins. In 1945, John Boyd Orr won for his work shaping Britain’s wartime food policy strategy. In 1998, Amartya Sen won for study on the underlying economic causes of famine.

In Andrés’ case, The Washington Post managed to obtain some of the language from Delaney’s nomination. In that document, Delaney heaped praise on the chef’s work and touted it as a model for responding to future crises.

“With an incredible spirit and an innovative mind, Mr. Andrés is solving one of the world’s ancient problems and supplying world leaders with a new road map to provide more effective disaster relief in the future,” Delaney wrote.