Navy Veteran Turned Chef Is Serving Thousands of Meals To Ukrainian Refugees

by Leanne Stahulak
(Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

After hearing about the conflict in Ukraine, Navy veteran and chef José Andrés brought his nonprofit World Central Kitchen to the country’s border.

Andrés and his crew have been on the ground for the last two weeks of the conflict. Per Yahoo! News, more than two million Ukrainian civilians have been displaced since the Russian invasion began. World Central Kitchen (WCK) has worked to provide people fleeing the country with food and other necessary resources.

At a Glance

  • Chef José Andrés has a nonprofit organization called World Central Kitchen that provides food during natural disasters and humanitarian crises.
  • Andrés and WCK were on the ground within hours of Russia invading Ukraine.
  • WCK’s operations have expanded to several countries bordering the conflict and into Ukraine itself.
  • Theyr’e serving 150,000 meals a day.

Navy Veteran and Chef José Andrés Discusses Efforts in Ukraine

Back when José Andrés served in the Spanish military, he quickly learned the value of adaptation. Now, decades after becoming an American citizen and starting up World Central Kitchen, Andrés still values adapting on the fly.

“Every day is so intense. Every hour keeps changing,” Andrés told Yahoo! News. “It’s been only seven, eight, nine days [of conflict] and it seems this war has been going on forever, so we are very quick in adapting hour to hour.”

The Navy veteran told the outlet how his team arrived on the border of Ukraine within hours of the Russian invasion. While WCK started with a station over the Ukrainian border in Poland, it’s now expanded to Romania, Moldova, Hungary, and Slovakia. WCK’s even stationed in Ukraine itself.

“We’ve been feeding within Kyiv, we’ve been feeding in Odesa. We’ve been feeding in cities that right now are under siege,” Andrés said. “I think the last report I got from my team today is that we are already in the north of 150,000 meals a day.”

Why José Andrés Set Up World Central Kitchen in Ukraine

The Navy veteran’s reasoning for going to Ukraine is simple: It helps all those displaced people and sends a powerful message to the world.

“Nothing is more powerful than sharing food with people,” Andrés said. “It’s become this amazing international sign of ‘Let’s build longer tables, not higher walls.’ ‘Let’s build longer tables, not wars.’ ‘Let’s build longer tables where we are all welcome to enjoy what the goodness of the earth can give us.’”

Andrés’ efforts only work due to the diligence of volunteers, though. As a nonprofit, WCK relies on people putting their time and energy into helping others.

“We began like we always do,” Andrés shared about arriving in Ukraine. “We arrived with a small group and this group began doubling every single day. [WCK] began doing a few thousand meals — and the number of meals began doubling down every day.”

The Navy veteran ended by giving a shoutout to WCK and all the volunteers at other organizations who have lent their services to help those in Ukraine.

“Small NGOs, firefighters, churches all across Poland, groups of friends, nurses, doctors, psychologists, teachers, students, everybody in Poland and in every other country too,” he said. “They left everything and they put themselves at the service of providing aid to every man and woman living in Ukraine.”

Andrés added, “They don’t care about recognition. They are people that are doing whatever they can, 24-7. And this is what I love about humanity.”