Watch CBS News

Celebrity chef José Andrés' aid group has sent 200 tons of food to Gaza. Who is he and what is World Central Kitchen?

Chef José Andrés: Serving meals in a war zone
Chef José Andrés: Serving meals in a war zone 07:50

Update: World Central Kitchen says seven aid workers were killed on April 1 when their convoy was hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it "a tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people," and said it would be investigated. Read more here. Our earlier story is below.

Celebrity chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen nonprofit have sent aid to Gaza, shipping almost 200 tons of food this week to Palestinians. The organization shipped the food from Cyprus on the Open Arms ship, which belongs to a Spanish nonprofit that helps vulnerable people in emergency situations.

Who is José Andrés?

Andrés, 54, is a Spanish-born chef who moved to the U.S. years ago to work in restaurants in New York City and Washington, D.C. He helped open several restaurants in the nation's capitol and then created his own restaurants around the country, including Nubeluz, in New York City, and Jaleo by José Andrés, with locations in Washington, D.C., Orlando, Las Vegas, Chicago and Dubai.

While working in D.C., Andrés volunteered at DC Central Kitchen, which repurposes food in the city to provide for those in need. This sparked his interest in philanthropy, and he founded World Central Kitchen in 2010. Its first mission was delivering food to Haiti.

Chef Jose Andres
Chef José Andrés talks to journalists about creating a grab-and-go meal restaurant in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 17, 2020 in Washington, D.C.   Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

What is World Central Kitchen?

World Central Kitchen mobilizes first responders to bring meals to people affected by natural disasters, crises and humanitarian emergencies around the globe

"Deploying our model of quick action, leveraging local resources, and adapting in real time, we know that a nourishing meal in a time of crisis is so much more than a plate of food — it's hope, it's dignity, and it's a sign that someone cares," the organization's website reads.

The nonprofit recently sent food to war-torn Ukraine, to Texas during the wildfires, and to Japan following earthquakes. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they delivered meals to children learning at home, first responders and seniors who were at risk.

The group also has a "Chef Corps" of chefs who use their local contacts to help deliver food during crises in their areas. 

In April 2022, Andrés and his team were on the ground serving food out of a restaurant in Kharkiv, Ukraine — the first time he and his team operated in a war zone.

When a Russian missile struck nearby, four people with World Central Kitchen were injured. 

But the attack barely slowed their operation. "What happened in the hours after was unbelievable," Andrés told "CBS Sunday Morning" correspondent Tracy Smith. "When the owner of that restaurant asked all the team members, 'What do you want to do?' they said, 'We wanna keep cooking. We wanna keep fighting.'"

The organization has provided more than 350 million meals to those in need.

Gaza aid shipments

The U.N. has warned about the imminent risk of famine in Gaza, a narrow strip of land bordered by Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean, where some 2.3 million Palestinians live. With its borders closed and war raging, an estimated 1.7 million of Gaza's people had been displaced as of Jan. 20, according to the United Nations, with many having no access to food, water, medicine or appropriate shelter.

Malnutrition and dehydration are becoming a growing part of the humanitarian crisis.

President Biden announced during his State of the Union address last week that the U.S. military will help create temporary port on the Gaza coast to help increase the amount of humanitarian aid that can enter the area.

World Central Kitchen worked with the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus to open a corridor for the Open Arms ship to deliver food to Gaza. The group has collected 500 tons of food, currently stationed in Cyprus, including rice, flour, canned vegetables, protein and legumes. 

They named their mission Operation Safeena, which means boat or vessel in Arabic, a representative for World Central Kitchen told CBS News.

The first World Central Kitchen boat left Cyprus on Wednesday and was arrived in Gaza on Friday, the representative said. The shipment contains enough food for almost half a million meals.

They are preparing about 300 tons of humanitarian food aid for a second trip to Gaza.

Since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants launched a terror attack in Israel which triggered the war, the organization says it has sent more than 37 million meals and 1,500 trucks to Gaza and also opened more than 60 community kitchens in the area.

This handout picture released by the Spanish humanitarian NGO Proactiva Open Arms on March 9, 2024 shows the vessel, also called Open Arms, docked in the Cypriot port of Larnaca.  PROACTIVA OPEN ARMS/AFP via Getty Images

They also airdropped food from a Royal Jordanian Air Force cargo plane, and have so far delivered 150,000 meals to Palestinians in Gaza, according to a social media post, as well as providing 5,000 meals to families in Lebanon who were displaced by the conflict.

Earlier this month, the U.S. also began airdorpping aid into Gaza. Egypt, France, the Netherlands and Belgium have also sent aid.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.