In ReviewWe Feed People

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars – ‘You will love this chef, and this documentary’
Directed by Ron Howard
Starring Carlota Andrés, Inés Andrés, José Andrés
2022 | 1h 29min
Streaming: Disney+

Ron Howard began his cinematic career as an actor and progressed to directing a wide range of films and documentaries. Some of his most popular films include Splash, Backdraft, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Beautiful Mind, and Apollo 13.

With We Feed People, Howard follows Nobel Peace Prize nominee Jose Andres as he leaves his comfortable lifestyle again and again to aid survivors of natural disasters all over the world. This is a most inspiring documentary, a bright spot in the news.

A world-renowned chef from Spain, who introduced small plates dining to North America, Andres built a successful career with restaurants, a new cooking style and cooking shows. He became a brand, says the documentary narrator.

His life partner Patricia Fernandez de la Cruz Andres provides the anchor in his life, caring for their three children as Jose takes on the Herculean task of feeding millions all over the world, wherever a natural disaster reveals a decided lack of talent or incentive on the part of local bureaucrats.

The documentary opens with footage from the 2018 tropical storm in Wilmington NC. Andres’ World Central Kitchen is there with paid staff, volunteers, emergency kitchen set-up and all-terrain vehicles.

Andres has said “We not only feed people. We create systems.” And we see his maps with color coding for emergency crews. He goes out with the trucks when the vehicles wade through deep water to reach the emergency shelters where people wait to be fed.

Jose Andres loves the word “cook” more than chef. In Spanish “cocinero” means cook, chef, kitchener – on the stove, with the fire, the food, water, love.

Andres brings spirit, passion, imagination to his work. At various times, he has said: I am good at seeing opportunity when others see mayhem. Big problems, yes, but simple solutions. I cook and I feed.

We are here with a simple mission, to make sure we are feeding the locals what they’re used to eating.

How did this life of service begin? The 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a 7.0 tremor which killed more than 200,000 people, was the reason World Central Kitchen was established. The devastation was almost beyond description. Andres and staff had to establish a kitchen and forage for food on the run. At first he used his own credit cards, when established relief agencies would not fund him. He is in tears of frustration as the Red Cross and other well-established NGOs refuse to help.

“Food is about community,” and this philosophy shaped the World Central Kitchen from the beginning. Andres said. “We are here with a simple mission, to make sure we are feeding the locals what they’re used to eating.”

Working with local volunteers in 2010 Haiti, 2017 Puerto Rico, 2018 Guatemala, 2019 Bahamas, and 2020 Navaho Nation, Andres and his assistants tailored their recipes to the traditional foods of each region. People’s worlds have been torn from them through hurricanes, earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic, he reasoned. The least we can do is feed them the food they know and like.

Emergency sandwiches, then paellas and traditional stews – he and his dedicated staff created miracles. Routines were perfected. In Puerto Rico he called on local chefs, and they then called on people they knew. Before Andres began his work, no one was contacting the cooks and chefs in disaster areas.

A big bear of a man, Andres wears his heart on his sleeve in such moments, but do not be fooled. His community fire is grounded in practical solutions and creative fundraising. He is not afraid to raise his voice. HIs big dreams are always rooted in what is possible.

WATCH: We Feed People | Official Trailer

Feed people first. Worry later about how to pay for it. Then create systems where survivors can take ownership after the emergency.

How do these miracles happen? Every man and woman volunteer in the disaster region owns the situation. Be pirates and cowboys. Rescue any usable equipment from the wreckage. Use every kind of machine available and imaginable to bring food to people.

He claims a whiskey sour at day’s end, and a good cigar. Andres says “it is a blessing in disguise to wake up with a purpose.”

At the White House Correspondents dinner in DC this year, Trevor Noah scanned the high-powered audience and singled out chef Jose Andres for special praise and applause.

You will love this chef, and this documentary.

We Feed People is currently streaming on the Disney+ channel.

Jeanne is a published poet and essayist. She holds degrees from Wayne State University and the University of San Francisco. Jeanne has taught in the CS, UB and OLLI programs at universities in the City. Her books in print include MY OWN SILENCE and WORD DANCING from Taurean Horn Press.