How Chef José Andrés Is Building His New Production Company to Help Enact Social Change (Video)

Innovators 2022: “Food equals love,” says the Spanish restauranteur, who has launched podcasts and a newsletter alongside his humanitarian aid efforts

“Wherever there is a fight for hungry people to eat, we will be there.” So said chef José Andrés in Ron Howard’s recent Emmy-nominated documentary, “We Feed People.” But Andrés, the Santa-like 53-year-old from Spain, is not the type to simply write a check from one of his Michelin-starred restaurants.

With his World Central Kitchen, founded in 2010, Andrés has spent months at a time on the ground in areas devastated by natural disaster or war, from Puerto Rico to Haiti to Ukraine, helping to mass-produce fresh meals using local cuisine. In recent weeks, he was in parts of Florida impacted by Hurricane Ian.

But while Andrés remains connected to the humanitarian work, especially in Ukraine, he’s also busy sharing his message by expanding his media footprint. Like a restaurant tasting menu where the courses keep coming, Andrés has recently started his own production company, José Andrés Media. Ever wary of self-aggrandizing, Andrés doesn’t love that the company is named after him, much preferring the cook-friendly acronym JAM.

Launched about a year ago, JAM’s output includes the chef’s own weekly podcast, “Longer Tables;” another podcast, “Pressure Cooker,” hosted by journalists Jane Black and professor Elizabeth Dunn; a buffet-plentiful Substack newsletter; and an upcoming Discovery+ television series (premiering later this year) in which he travels through Spain with his college-age daughters. Outside of JAM, Andrés also voices Chef Al on the new Disney animated series “Firebuds,” which premiered last month.

What connects all of his projects is, of course, food. “Everybody has a relationship with food, from the moment we are being fed by our mothers,” Andrés told TheWrap. “Forever, we remember that food equals love. That’s powerful. That’s why these stories, I think, are important and open up a lot of other possibilities to understand more about people.”

That philosophy has remained the driving force behind his life’s purpose. And with the founding of his media company, Andrés’ most important goal was to highlight the untold stories of the many individuals he’s encountered while also being an active part of the creative process from behind the scenes.

“It made a lot of sense that I created [José Andrés Media],” he said. “Where food ideas will come and where we will give opportunity to people that have a hard time making things happen. But now I can give not only voice to the issues [that I care about], but I can also give voice to others and we can help spread their voices.”

He hopes to make everyone think more about access to healthy food, even if the message needs to be mixed into the applesauce. “I want everybody to think more about food, starting with the president of the United States, all the way to the last person in the system. And these [media endeavors] are Trojan horses to make sure we’re going to be reaching more and more people and the way they interact with food.”

Though his remarkable humanitarian efforts are global in scope, Andrés wants to use his new platforms to combat hunger in the United States, especially in poorer communities. “If you think about it, America is really a gigantic restaurant,” he said. “Let’s take a look how many restaurants there are, places that produce and sell food, from food trucks to diners to fast food to high end to low end. And we need to make sure that the people that feed America can feed themselves. There should not be any situation where any American is hungry.”

Additional reporting by Steve Pond.

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