Today, I happened to watch two different documentary films which are currently available on Disney+ at present, and I must tell you that it was an interesting double feature show for me because both of the main subjects of these two different documentaries are celebrity chefs who have been quite popular in US in each own way. Both of these two documentaries were informative to me in one way or another because I did not know that much about either of their respective main subjects, but David Gelb’s “Wolfgang” is a bit dissatisfying because of its rather superficial presentation of the life and career of Wolfgang Puck, while Ron Howard’s “We Feed People” is relatively more engaging as vividly presenting only José Andrés’ ongoing humanitarian activity but also his indelible personality.
In 2010, Andrés was just one of many well-known celebrity chefs in US, but there came an unexpected experience which changed his life and career forever. After Haiti was hit by a massive earthquake, he volunteered to go there just for providing food to many local people affected by this immense catastrophe, and then he was quite surprised to see them not usually being able to get decent food there. He immediately decided to find any possible way to help them eat as well as possible, and that was the beginning of his non-governmental organization World Central Kitchen.
When Puerto Rico was hit by a big hurricane in 2017, Andrés did not hesitate at all, but, like he did in Haiti, he and his colleagues had to deal with many different problems right from the very beginning. He was determined to deliver and provide food to at least 500,000 people everyday, but then he and his colleagues had to secure lots of things first, including a considerable amount of food ingredients for their big cooking process.
Not so surprisingly, this daunting circumstance put lots of stress and strain on Andrés, who had to spend a lot of money without getting any financial help for a while. At one point, he was so stressed and exhausted that he had no choice but to go back to his family home in LA for some rest, but he soon returned because he could possibly let down others around him as well as those unfortunate people in Puerto Rico.
In the end, Andrés and the members of World Central Kitchen came to help numerous people in Puerto Rico, and their hard but valuable field experiences from Puerto Rico helped them a lot as they continue to work around the world during next several years. When there was a sudden big volcano eruption in Guatemala in 2018, they were fully prepared at that time, and they did much more than simply providing food to those local people to be helped by them. Because of a little lesson he came to learn in Haiti during that time, Andrés has always cared about the qualities of the food prepared by him and his colleagues, and that was appreciated a lot by many local people, who were certainly glad to receive some decent meal from them.
In case of a big hurricane disaster in the Bahamas in 2019, the situation was a bit more challenging for Andrés and his colleagues. First, they needed to secure a kitchen safe and clean enough for their cooking, but it turned out to be quite difficult to find any suitable spot for them as many buildings were considerably ruined by the hurricane. At one point, they attempted to clean an abandoned hotel restaurant kitchen which looked like the only option for them, but their efforts eventually turned out to be futile, and this certainly frustrated them a lot, though they subsequently found a fairly good alternative to everyone’s relief.
During the COVID-19 pandemic during next several years, Andrés and his colleagues became much busier than before as millions of people in US struggled to get any decent food in the middle of the lockdown period. While constantly cautious about any possibility of infection, they went here and there for helping many desperate people out there, and Andrés also actively worked with several notable American politicians including Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden for more change and improvement.
Meanwhile, we also get to know about Andrés’ personal life. While he has been much more successful than he expected when he came from home country to US many years ago, he is your average down-to-earth family guy with lots of heart and spirit, and you can easily sense his sincere care and compassion, which have been one of the main forces behind his nongovernmental organization. As the global community is struck by much more climate disasters than before due to the ongoing climate change around the world, World Central Kitchen naturally becomes more important than ever, and Andrés and his colleagues are continuing to pursue their humanitarian cause even at this point.
On the whole, “We Feed People” is worthwhile to watch for several genuine moments of human decency and empathy, and Howard, who recently made a series of solid documentaries including “Pavarotti” (2019) whenever he was not making disposable feature films such as “Inferno” (2016), did a commendable job of presenting Andrés’ and his colleagues with enough care and respect. Although it does not show Andrés’ cooking skill as much as you might expect, you will come to admire him a lot as getting to know him a bit, and, as observing how he and his colleagues have passionately worked for years, you will also come to reflect more on the value of having a decent meal. Sure, the world will probably be far less convenient for many of us during the rest of the 21st century, but having a decent meal will still be an important human right for all of us no matter what will happen to us, right?