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Barack Obama, José Andrés

President Barack Obama poses for a photo with chef José Andrés following a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians, Friday, July 4, 2014, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. 

The James Beard Foundation has named José Andrés, multiple James Beard Award–winning chef, owner of ThinkFoodGroup, humanitarian and founder of World Central Kitchen, the recipient of its 2018 Humanitarian Award.

Andrés has championed the role of chefs in the national debate on food policy. In 2012, he formed World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that provides solutions to hunger and poverty. Together with World Central Kitchen and #ChefsforPuertoRico, Andrés served more than 3.3 million meals in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Andrés was named the Humanitarian honoree as the Foundation announced this year’s theme, “RISE,” which celebrates the community of chefs and industry leaders who rise to the occasion — whether to feed those in need, to stand up for what they believe in, to support their local communities, or to express their personal stories through their cooking.

Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation, said, “José’s work in Puerto Rico and Haiti shows how chefs can use their expertise and unique skills to enact profound change on a global scale. He has demonstrated how, at the most difficult times, hot-cooked meals provide more than nutrition. They provide dignity.”

Following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, Andrés, World Central Kitchen, and the #ChefsForPuertoRico network of chefs and volunteers serviced communities in need across all 78 municipalities through 23 kitchens.

With the support of the people of Puerto Rico, the organization has activated a local network of chefs, volunteers and partner organizations with a proven model to provide effective and efficient food relief in times of emergency. World Central Kitchen continues to demonstrate its in-depth commitment to Puerto Rico, its people, economy, health and future.

Ongoing programs and long-term projects related to chef-driven disaster preparedness and feeding operations, sustainable and local agriculture, and resurgence of the island’s food economy are under development.

“I am honored to be receiving and sharing this award with my team,” Andres said. “Whether it’s teaching and preparing a meal alongside people who have just started a new chapter, empowering communities through clean cookstoves, or cooking meals for people who have experienced unimaginable devastation, I’ve learned that food is powerful. It nourishes, but it also has the power to be an agent of hope and change.”

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Beard Award semi-finalists

Among the James Beard Award semifinalists for the Best New Restaurant of 2017 is Charter Oak in St. Helena.

Chef Christopher Kostow of The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, and Charter Oak is a semi-finalist for Outstanding Chef.

Cathy Corison of Corison Winery in St. Helena, and Steve Matthiasson of Matthiasson Wines in Napa are semi-finalists for Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional.

The James Beard Foundation Awards Gala will be held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on Monday, May 7.