COMING TO NAT GEO! We Feed People, directed and produced by Ron Howard, is a prolific account of world-renowned chef and humanitarian José Andrés and the global work of his nonprofit World Central Kitchen. The opening thrusts us into a 2018 food delivery to a Wilmington, North Carolina community stranded by a hurricane. However, this mission has to be aborted partially due to inaccessibility. Stuck and immobile, Andrés refuses to give up handing over food to these people in need.
The World Central Kitchen has been operating for more than a decade. It grew from a make-shift group of volunteers to an essential aid organization in the world’s continuing need for food relief from paralyzing hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes to the COVID-19 pandemic and, even more recent, the war in Ukraine. Andrés will stop at nothing to make sure people can eat well-prepared meals with fresh food because this is a crucial element in how they will survive the trauma they’re experiencing.
We Feed People presents the importance of World Central Kitchen’s work, from amphibious vehicles and helicopters feeding trapped people to folks waiting in lines around the block in New York City to receive a satisfying, prepared meal during the pandemic. The documentary also shows both sides of a disaster, from the people needing to eat to the World Central Kitchen staff figuring out their set-ups, often creating a kitchen out of the rubble and miraculously making cuisine for hundreds of thousands of people.
“…a prolific account of world-renowned chef and humanitarian José Andrés and the global work of his nonprofit World Central Kitchen.”
We Feed People also dives into the accomplishments and life of the Spanish-born José Andrés. I’ve followed Andrés for some time and have watched him with Anthony Bourdain in Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, where he creates seaside meals on the beach in Spain with mouthwatering, delicious food straight from the land and the sea. This two-star Michelin restaurant and four Bib Gourmands awarded chef is credited for the evolution of small plate dining and tapas in America. He is always humble and full of compassion, which further drives my desire to eat at one of his tables. Unfortunately, I could never get a reservation at one of his restaurants as you need to book months in advance if that’s even possible.
We get the full spectrum of Andrés’ life. We don’t only see him being called off to one cataclysmic disaster after another. The director takes time to show the chef spending time with his wonderful and supportive wife and three daughters. These home interactions, and the other women’s interviews, offer even more insight into Andrés. Though his calling is nothing short of a ship’s captain trying to guide through the roughest seas, it’s not always pretty to feed people who have just lost their entire community from an earthquake or natural disaster. It can be heartbreaking to see all those people in need.
But, We Feed People makes you believe that we can survive as food is an agent of change through all the madness and life-altering situations rolling at the human race. There is the ability to mobilize anywhere, and the knowledge gained from creating kitchens in such varying disasters is puzzle-solving at its finest. So for every hard-to-watch moment, there’s something uplifting being presented as well.
An on-the-scene documentary filled with interviews, action, and archival footage, We Feed People is inspiring. There’s something beautiful in coming to understand how one man can activate and mobilize so many for the greater good. José Andrés is a gift to humankind. With this film, Ron Howard has created a new look at disaster relief for the world because it’s doable and necessary, and we are powerful, not powerless.
We Feed People screened at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.
"…an understanding of how one man can activate so many"