José Andrés is a two Michelin star chef as well as one of the world’s leading humanitarians. From his humble beginnings in Spain to now running over 30 restaurants across the US, chef José transformed the culinary field.
José founded the World Central Kitchen in 2010 with the main goal of going to disaster zones to feed those in need. José led disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and later went on to write a book on his experience. Since then, he has helped feed people in fires, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and most recently, during the pandemic. At the start of the outbreak, José closed all his restaurants to help feed the unemployed during the pandemic. José is one of the most dedicated and resilient people I have had the opportunity to meet.
The Richmond Forum
The Richmond Forum is a subscription series that puts on five programs each year. The biggest and most influential names in the world have taken the stage at The Richmond Forum, creating a lifetime of memories. Past speakers have included former U.S. presidents, sitting heads of state, leaders from the sciences, arts, business, and more.
If you remember, I made a post on Sanjay Gupta’s speech at the Richmond Forum. This year I am honored to have a greater part in the Richmond Forum as a Forum Scholar. Forum Scholars have the unique opportunity to personally meet each of the five speakers during the season. Richmond Forum Scholars are selected from a pool of applicants*. Jose Andres was the first of the five, and it was an amazing experience getting to know him. Even though the format has changed to a virtual program, this night will hold a very special place in my memory.
Since I have this unique opportunity of being a Richmond Forum Scholar, I have decided to document my experience in a series of posts which I will release on this blog.
The night began at 6:30 with musical entertainment and a student room where kids across Richmond could join in on the conversation and discuss the speaker of the night. As Forum Scholars, we moderate the student room. During the pre-program, we talked about what we were excited to hear from José during his speech. We had a lively discussion about José’s philanthropy work and his restaurants. José, later on, joined the student room to speak to students directly and answer questions.
At 7, we left the student room to view the speech. José began his speech by talking about his family. This year’s Thanksgiving has been unique, with much of the country being unable to visit or celebrate with family. Even though we are unable to celebrate together, José discussed that we should do our best to remain connected with our loved ones during these difficult times.
Growing up in a family of nurses, José had a deep sense of empathy and compassion instilled in him from a young age. José Andrés began cooking at an early age, helping his mother bake by the time he was eight. He created complex dishes like paella by the age of 12 to feed his neighborhood. He mentioned the complicated relationship with his mother and how he wishes that he had been closer to her. José talked about how we should give more chances to our family because they will always be there for us through thick and thin.
He later went on to talk about his journey through culinary school and joining the Spanish Navy. Joining the Navy was a major moment in his life. One of his first ports of call was Pensacola, Florida, where he saw five flags flying, one of them the Spanish flag. During his speech, he recollected his memories of seeing this and feeling welcomed. After Florida, José sailed into New York Harbor, where after seeing the city, he decided that US was where he belonged.
Four years later, he arrived in New York and began his career as a chef. Jose’s journey is so incredible and his persistence in his art is visible throughout all his work. Halfway through the speech, José shifted gears to talking about the World Central Kitchen, and about all the help from his family, friends, and strangers.
It was an incredible, energetic, fun night. Just a day prior to this event, José was in Honduras working to feed those impacted by Hurricane Iota and Eta. That just goes to show how dedicated he is to help those in need.
After his speech, there was a short Q and A where José answered questions from the audience. One thing he said really stuck with me.
After the Q and A, the hosts and Forum Scholars had an opportunity to personally thank Jose for giving that incredible speech.
What I gained
I feel that this night was truly so great for me on a personal level. It felt so good to hear and listen to such an incredible person. I was able to learn so much from José and his words truly touched me. José gave me hope that if we are all united as one there isn’t anything that we can’t accomplish.
Thank you to José Andrés for your incredible speech, and thank you to the Richmond Forum for creating this amazing opportunity.
Join in on the fun!
If you want to learn more about the Richmond Forum, you can visit their site at https://richmondforum.org/
You can join their email list to be notified for upcoming seasons and speakers https://richmondforum.org/email/
If you are a student in the Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, and Richmond area interested in attending a Forum event, you can go to the below link!
*Richmond Forum Scholar applicants must be high school juniors.