How a top Spanish chef has rushed to Ukraine to feed refugees

José Andrés, a Spanish chef based in the United States, is leading a massive effort to provide meals for Ukrainians in need.

How a top Spanish chef has rushed to Ukraine to feed refugees
Andrés, whose World Central Kitchen has set up disaster response kitchens to feed people in Puerto Rico, Indonesia, Mozambique, Guatemala, among other countries, is now helping to feed thousands on the border with Ukraine. (Photo by CHIP SOMODEVILLA / Getty Images via AFP)

The 52-year-old chef has been based in the US since 1991, where he runs several restaurants with his group ThinkFoodGroup and has become one of America’s most famous cooks.

However, he is best known for his humanitarian work. Through his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, Spanish chef José Andrés is serving thousands of fresh meals to Ukrainian families.

In Poland, the chef and his team were among the first to arrive to feed the thousands of refugees fleeing the war, providing them with cups of tea and chicken and vegetable soup.

“Hot meal distribution today in Ukraine at the Rava-Ruska border!,” Andrés said in a tweet on Monday. “Huge lines as people wait to enter Poland.”

World Central Kitchen said it provided 4,000 meals in 18 hours to people in Medyka, Poland.

The organisation is partnering with Caritas nuns to serve food to refugees, as well as several other organisations, restaurants and bakeries around Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

“Any Ukranian chefs that want to join World Central Kitchen #ChefsforUkraine and help us feed their own people, we are ready to take care of them, we need them,” Andrés posted in a tweet on Saturday. 

The organisation is now present in several Ukranian cities including Kharkiv, where one kitchen was only 500 metres from where a missile hit on Tuesday. “Everyone is okay and they are still cooking, sometimes without lights and hearing the attacking planes overhead,” Andrés wrote.

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, after an earthquake devastated Haiti, and has been busy ever since. The non-profit prepared nearly 4 million meals for residents of Puerto Rico in the wake of hurricane Maria in 2017. During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Andrés turned his New York City and Washington, D.C. restaurants into takeaway kitchens where meals cost $10 but diners were encouraged to pay what they could afford.

In 2017 Andrés also made headlines when he was sued by the Trump Organisation, after he refused to work at the company’s new Washington hotel.

He was included in TIME magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in 2018 and was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize the following year.

Andrés was born in the town of Mieres in Asturias. After going to culinary school in Barcelona, he worked at Ferran Adrià’s restaurant El Bulli. He arrived in New York City at the age of 21, and moved to Washington D.C. to start a Spanish restaurant called Jaleo, which helped popularise tapas in the U.S.

Last year he received the Princesa de Asturias de la Concordia award for his humanitarian work.

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.