Alina Polyakova: Hello, I’m Alina Polyakova. I’m the President and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis. Welcome to the 2023 CEPA Forum, Winning the War, Winning the Peace. It’s a true professional and personal honor and pleasure to present CEPA’s 2023 Humanitarian Impact Award to the World Central Kitchen and its founder, Chef José Andrés, for their incredible and extraordinary work in bringing relief [and] unity to communities across the world, and of course, especially in Ukraine. Chef Andrés, José it’s wonderful to have you. Thank you for the incredible work you’ve been doing across the world, and especially in the most critical time of need, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I think on behalf of the Ukrainian people, and people across the world whose lives you’ve impacted so directly, are grateful. 

José Andrés: Oh, thank you very much. I will say I was a little bit surprised, I mean, I will take, obviously, on behalf of World Central Kitchen, but I think if anything this award, this year more than ever, should be for the Ukrainian people working with World Central Kitchen because they’ve been the ones doing an unbelievable job over the last 550 days. So thank you, on behalf of all of them. 

Polyakova: Exactly. I couldn’t agree with you more. The courage that the Ukrainians have had over the last now more than a year and a half since Russia’s invasion has, of course, inspired so many people across the world. But World Central Kitchen was really there at the very beginning when people were still fleeing Ukraine, when we didn’t know if the Russian invasion from February was going to take over the capitol. You yourself see yourself as a volunteer, and you were there on the front lines. So you know, you’ve been in so many disaster zones. In Haiti, in Puerto Rico, in the United States, and Texas, Hawaii, we have a long list. But Ukraine was the first warzone that you operated in, versus a disaster area from a climate event or something similar. What was different about that experience of the beginning from your previous work that you’ve done as a volunteer? 

Andrés: Well, we arrived within hours of the Russian invasion. We began in the border in Poland. World Central Kitchen never goes with a plan. We just go and we adapt. Very quickly, we saw that obviously there was a massive flux of Ukrainian refugees leaving. Easy to understand why. And very quickly we said we need to make sure that we have systems 24/7. The weather was super cold. And within a couple of weeks, we were in every single exit point for Ukrainians not only in Poland but in every other country. On top of being in Warsaw, we’ve been in Madrid, been in Germany. Anywhere where Ukrainian refugees were World Central Kitchen teams were there 24/7. At the same time, we saw that obviously, there was displaced Ukrainians inside Ukraine, fleeing the east, and moving into Kiyv and into Lviv and those cities, they were in need of help. Thousands of small and big refugee/displaced people’s homes were created and was then ready to become partnered with restaurants just to make sure we were able to feed everybody. My first war experience, the first war experience for World Central Kitchen; what we saw [was] very much equal to other emergencies, in that in the worst moments of humanity, the best of humanity shows up. Seems every Ukrainian, when I arrived, was very dedicated to help their country, put the Russians away. The war sometimes isn’t only won by defending yourself in the best possible way, but when every single member of a country participates in helping, that’s what I saw in Ukraine. 

Polyakova: So one of the things you’ve said often is that you really see yourself as a volunteer and that it’s your job to learn from the communities on the ground. I think that’s what’s made World Central Kitchen really unique compared to multilateral or government-run institutions that are much slower often, they’re not there as quickly, and they’re not as plugged into the local communities. So in terms of what you’ve learned from the communities in Ukraine that you just talked about, and the Ukrainian people and the kind of resilience that I’m sure you see in Ukraine and elsewhere, is there one thing that stands out in your mind, a person who you may have interacted with, a family that represents the experience of Ukraine to you? 

Andrés: Well, it is hundreds of individuals. But with World Central Kitchen it will be Yulia Stefanenko. She’s no longer with us in the day-to-day even though she’s still working, but she was the one that very much became the director of World Central Kitchen. And she is the example of a Ukrainian that’s highly adaptable, highly prepared, and that Ukrainians welcome us with open arms. Sometimes when you go to some emergencies, for different reasons that are easy to understand why, but people usually sometimes they push you out. People are proud, rightfully so. But in the case of Ukrainians, yes, they’re proud, but also they welcome you, and they understand they need help. And they make you even if anything more successful. Probably Minister Kamyshin right now, who is a person we met early on, he was running the Ukrzaliznytsia. This is the railway of Ukraine. Those trains under war, they’ve been running almost on time, 95% of the time. Now, I don’t understand how. And right now Minister Kamyshin who was a person that was helping refugees, moving food, probably moving weapons. I mean, without Ukrzaliznytsia Ukraine wouldn’t be in the situation it is right now. And right now he’s the Minister of kind of new new systems and weapons to defend Ukraine. So those two individuals to me are people that really impressed me. But you will see many Ukrainians in different parts of government or civil society that are doing unbelievable work all across Ukraine. 

Polyakova: Those are amazing individuals to highlight. And of course, it’s millions of Ukrainians as you’ve said, that have come together to defend their country, and the resilience of Ukraine has captured the imagination of the world. But we are now far into the swarm. It’s not clear how this war will end. It’s not clear if the Kremlin and Mr. Putin will choose to end this brutal war of aggression that’s costing millions of lives and having effects across the globe. I think one of the things that World Central Kitchen has highlighted and brought to light in a much more mainstream way is that food isn’t just a core human experience. It is much more than that. And what you often have talked about is creating, as you said, systems; and systems that can remain after you leave, after other humanitarian organizations can no longer be; you can’t stay in a place forever. In Ukraine, now that we are over a year and a half into this conflict. How are the systems functioning that you and World Central Kitchen came in and tried to help organize, try to establish; what does it look like now, compared to the early days of the war? 

Andrés: I want to make clear that obviously, World Central Kitchen is an organization that does food in emergencies. And we’re talking about how Ukraine is a country that can export and produce enough grain and oil to feed between four and five million people. So the question here was, why are you going to feed a country that exports so much food? I think everybody will understand that in the middle of a war, chaos happens; infrastructures are broken, people are moving, restaurants are shut down, supermarkets are shut down because there’s no people power to man them. Bridges may be destroyed; there’s a whole bunch of reasons why, yeah, the systems used break down. What World Central Kitchen did was use: let’s create the minimum system to keep everybody flowing. So we reached 500,000 hot meals a day with the help of 520 restaurants. We did, some of these kitchens, as I said before, 24/7, especially in the border in the first six months, then we shut down.

As we were moving stronger inside Ukraine we reached close to 900 cities and towns. We were having more than nine thousand distribution points a week. At one moment we had between 150 and 200 trucks delivering food all across Ukraine to different warehouses. We had the train delivering food to faraway places in the east. We had many warehouses that we were positioning strategically food but also we were making these food bags that allowed us to do 1 million meals a day in the places with no supermarket so we reached 1.5 million meals a day. We did a total of around 240/245 million meals. On top of that we did seeds. Farmers couldn’t afford them or they didn’t get the loans from the banks, I’m talking more middle sized farms this last year. But we invested some money with the help of the Howard Buffett Foundation too, and then money was not so much how many seeds we were able to buy and farmers help; but we’re sending a message to Europe, to UN, to America that that was the way.

We had to be supporting those farmers from day one. This year we supported 130,000 families, everyone in Ukraine, in the rural areas, they have a farm behind their homes, and we produce what we call ‘seeds for victory,’ a package of 12 seeds that is almost like the perfect borscht, where every family is been able to plan. I just came back from a trip going all around from Chernihiv all the way down south to Kramatorsk, and was very joyous for me to see that those families that we give the seeds were using them getting ready for winter, winter is coming, like last year, and they were getting ready with it. The onions and the potatoes, drying them making sure they were in good shape, shelling the beans getting ready for a winter. What I saw is that the Ukrainians understand that they’re going through a war that may be short or may be long, but they are ready, they are pragmatic in the situation. But what I see is a huge unity around the meaning of being a Ukrainian behind President Zelenskyy, when people tell you “I didn’t vote for him, but he’s my president now,” and this is something very powerful. That is probably one of the key elements of why Ukraine has been able to hold this military superpower when on paper, they were supposed to be taken in less than three days. 

Polyakova: Exactly. We were so wrong about that, weren’t we, at the beginning of this war? And what I think you are describing right now, how every single person you’re encountering, your average Ukrainians are pragmatic, as you said, they understand the challenge of the situation, and they’re doing what needs to be done. And they’re not leaving their land. Many have had to leave, they didn’t want to leave because of the invasion, but many are also returning. And one of the unique things World Central Kitchen, I think to my mind is; you are not just in Ukraine; you’ve also set up operations wherever Ukrainian refugees are all across Europe. That’s a huge operation. There’s no question about that. You’re not a huge team at World Central Kitchen. How are you managing all this? I know you have a team but you’re a human. 

Andrés: Okay, I am one more volunteer. I’m volunteer number one and the founder that obviously has an organization. Back at the time, it was Nate Mook who was the CEO, now he has moved to other things. Now we have Erin Gore, the new CEO, and we have a team that has a lot of experience. It’s more about how we allow people to come from any different part of the world or life if they have previous experience with us to join us, and the team and family is growing nonstop. We are responding right now to the earthquake in Morocco. And many of the members were the same teams of World Central Kitchen and volunteers and contractors that we randomly use when they are available and we need them, that came from the earthquake in Turkey. Why we did such a good response in Morocco? Because already we did a very good response in Turkey and the know-how keeps going from place to place. In Turkey we had Ukrainians coming to help us in the earthquake. So this is kind of a learning system that keeps on giving and keeps growing with more members; more experience; more expertise. We don’t plan. Organizations that follow a plan, they will fail, because we are learning in emergencies, [such as] COVID, any moment, that when you are only planning your life and planning your business: things don’t go as planned.

And therefore if you don’t have a plan for what is to happen, you freeze. When you embrace adaptation, every moment is not something that stubs you: “Oh my god, I don’t have a plan for this, what do we do?” But [instead] you’re embracing the moment because you’re gonna adapt to whatever the circumstances of what we are going [through]. In the early days, by May last year, World Central Kitchen; we had a boat and we went from Romania and we went up the Danube and we went to Izmail. Izmail that right now, like Odesa, is shelled and bombed every single day because it’s very important for the export of food for Ukraine, not only to keep the economy in Ukraine moving but also to keep feeding certain countries and parts of the world that they depend on that grain to feed their population. For as you see, it’s learning, not reading what’s going on, but with boots on the ground, in real-time, to understand the situation. So on our own we can come up with the right solution, the right decision with whatever we have around us. That’s very much how World Central Kitchen always operates. 

Polyakova: You know, this ability to adapt and to focus on solutions versus being frozen by unknown problems. This is the private sector entrepreneurial spirit that you embody in such a profound way. And, you know, it’s interesting that now that World Central Kitchen exists, and now that you’re so active in every single disaster zone it seems like you’re everywhere, that we didn’t have it before. You know, this gap that’s been there, this lack of focus on providing food, water, and over time, but even beyond that, to people in need, millions and millions of people across the world. You know, what’s happening in Ukraine right now, millions of people being impacted, the ongoing war; every day there shellings, as you said; every day there’s attacks on grains. And this is causing ripple effects that you were alluding to across the world where other people are not being fed, where other people across the world aren’t getting access to subsistence, right? Why do you think it took so long for the international community to recognize that food is a critical part of disaster response? 

Andrés: Well, it’s a delay, and I think the international community recognizes this part. I do believe the UN is way behind. I’m very happy that Cindy McCain is the new leader of the World Food Programme. But she has a very big job on her shoulders. I think some organizations are way too big. And when they are way too big, they don’t even know sometimes what their real responsibility is. It’s wonderful people in organizations like World Food Programme and others. But I think we need to start looking inside what is the role of those organizations. What is the funding that those organizations need? Right now World Food Programme seems it’s not able to reach every single country in the world that really are in the age of true hunger, because the budgets are not there. But at the same time, even with money, my question will always be, and I think it’s a fair question: if we gave a blank check to the UN, will the UN be the right place to help end hunger? And I’m sorry to say that I’m not sure.

And that’s why I do believe that we don’t need to use a super big organization that has the responsibility to end hunger alone. But this requires much more of a new mentality, like a startup mentality where you will have organizations much smaller, with very clear definitions of what their objective is, and asking a simple question: what is the return on investment? So our return on investment is: can we be there as soon as we can, and bring food and water, where we are not fixing any problem? We are not fixing the long-term hunger issues those communities have. I feel we barely are putting our fingers into this wall, trying to cover the holes. But that’s important. Because in these moments, people really feel alone. In these moments people are in disrepair. And it’s important that we’re next to them in the early hours and days of an earthquake or volcano. But the international community right now don’t recognize that food is a national security issue. And I was given the opportunity to cook for presidents and prime ministers of NATO countries, to all the foreign affairs ministers and all the defense ministers in the NATO summit in Madrid.

And this was a big opportunity I didn’t take lightly, they gave me the opportunity to speak to the presidents and the ministers. I was not talking about the menu, even though obviously, the menu was the reason I was there, but everybody knew I was going to go with a very simple message: Food is a national security issue. Don’t take it for granted. And right now, what we’re seeing is that if we’re not careful, we’re talking about food waste, how planet Earth is producing more food than we need, but still we have hunger. So imagine, we are producing more than we need but we are not able to have a good system of distribution to bring peace and food to everyone, including the rich countries. How? I think it’s doable, but we cannot do it with people who don’t understand the food systems. And sometimes our politicians don’t understand the food systems. We don’t really take food in a serious manner, and presidents when they start having a national security food adviser, the UN will start really giving true importance to the meaning of food to achieve peace and stability and combat climate change. And we don’t only create like the seventeen goals for the year 2030.

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How can you try to have such a crazy agenda? When there’s almost no money behind every one of those issues? I mean, I am a business guy, a small business guy, but when I want to create the project, you put money, you put investment, you bring the best teams, and maybe you’re successful. But how you can be claiming that you’re gonna be ending every single problem humanity is facing, and we’re barely putting the dollars behind even a start? This is one of the reasons, unfortunately, we are already failing for the year 2030. I think it’s about the moment right now, we recognize that [this] is a failed goal. And I think I will reinvent the date and the objective we want to achieve. The one I’m more interested in, Zero Hunger, can we achieve Zero Hunger? So raise people out of poverty, it’s highly doable. But then, this is the dark night; winter is coming. What happens if all of a sudden it’s not about food waste but all of the sudden we are not able to produce enough food to feed everybody on planet Earth. It’s not any more about food waste. I’m very worried. That just coming from this happening in Ukraine, they’re producing 50% in Ukraine alone. 50% less than before the war. This is a huge amount of food that already is being wasted. Who is benefiting? Russia because Russia and Ukraine are competitors in food exports.

But China, take a look at China. In 2020 President Xi addressed the population saying I need you to stop wasting food. When we’ve seen the president of 20% of the human population, telling them ‘don’t waste food.’ India, they stop exports of rice. Either our [inaudible] leaders are reading into what’s happening; we’re gonna be in trouble because that means food may be more scarce in the years to come because countries are not able to have the same output. And all of a sudden, we may be waking up in the next years to a horror reality. Many will be hungry. And then what do we do? Let’s make sure that our leaders understand all the importance that food has in what humanity is. It’s not about our oil. Oil moves our cars, but food moves humanity. I am afraid they’re not taking the issue seriously enough. And that’s why I love to keep repeating: food is a national security issue. Don’t forget about it. 

Polyakova: And that was something to your exact point that when Russia attacked Ukraine, in February last year, no one was talking about food security, despite Ukraine being one of the largest global producers of basic foodstuffs for some of the poorest countries in the world. Some countries are 100% dependent. 

Andrés: And I do believe that’s why food can be the best of diplomacy in the history of mankind. We all know that the President of China came from very humble beginnings. He spent time as a young boy in a farm. His father was in trouble with the regime, he even lived in a cave. So that’s why he’s so close to what the poor people in the rural areas of China ask. He missed a very important meeting, the last gathering, he didn’t go, just a couple of weeks ago, why? He was meeting with all the rice producers in China because they’re having issues; with fertilizers, with lack of water. A president that single-handedly himself is in the rural areas talking to all the farmers to see how [they] handle the rice production in the years to come. China imports 80% of a very important staple for them soy; soybeans, imports 80%. China feeds 20% of the world’s population, only all the people live in China, but they only have 7% of the farming land. If somebody is giving importance [to food security], it’s President Xi too because he was a seven/eight-year-old boy when the very big famine happened in 1959 to 1961. The Great Famine in China happened. So I think he’s highly conscious.

I do believe, and I may sound naive, that that’s one of the reasons even President Xi supports somehow Russia. He has not been supporting them [inaudible] and I believe we have a big chance because of food: that China will be a better intermediary in achieving peace, in ending the war, in making sure that Russia gives back the territory. Ukrainians are good food producers, the farmers are some of the best in the world. And that hopefully, the war will be over, we can clean all the farms out of the mess that is with mines. Farmers are dying every week just trying to do something so simple as planting seeds or recollecting grain. And that who knows that all of a sudden, when everybody has been talking to Turkey and the peace deal to the grain corridor, which at the end, happened and was canceled. But I am very hopeful that China could have, only because of interest, but could have a bigger role in [inaudible] than Russia. We need to stop this war, because we may have a famine era around the corner and countries like China will suffer. So I’m hopeful that something like this could happen even is because the self-interest of China. 

Polyakova: That’s very interesting. I didn’t know about some of those figures in China, to be honest with you, it’s really fascinating. I hope so too. I think in the line of work that you do it’s your optimism that I think often surprises people, given what you just described, about some of the lack of understanding, lack of leadership we’re seeing at the global level from the agencies that were set up and designed to address the issues that you and World Central Kitchen have had to step in, because that response was inadequate, because it wasn’t adaptable, because it was too heavily bureaucratic. And based on planning and not seeing the situation on the ground. Your idea of having a food security adviser in the National Security Council here in United States and other countries. I like this idea a lot. And I wanted to ask you; you’ve been now doing this kind of work for a very long time at this point. You identified some gaps that we have that we’re not going to hit our goals for 2030. The UN goals for 2030. What can other organizations do? So not organizations that are directly involved in crisis response or food security issues; what can individuals do? What would you like to see? You’ve spent so much time talking about these issues, using yourself, your brand World Central Kitchen to elevate food security at the global agenda. But I have a sense that you know, you go anywhere in the United States, not anywhere, but a lot of places: we take it for granted. We take it for granted that we can go to the store and you have plentitude right? And so much of that food goes to waste. We take that for granted in most of the developed industrialized world, frankly. What would you like to see, if you could send a message to your citizens, and to organizations, organizations like ours, like CEPA; What can we do? 

Andrés: Well, obviously it’s more complex than not, because in the moment you start doing recommendations, if you’re an individual is fine, if you’re a politician, all of a sudden, the other party is going to use it against you. You imagine in the same way, President Xi said to his Chinese citizens, ‘don’t waste food.’ Imagine if the same happens by our president here, all of a sudden it will be used; Republicans will go on top of him like “Well, America is about freedom. We can do whatever we want,” even if it’s probably the right thing to do and could happen vice versa on other issues if the president was Republican. But I do believe we all can do more. Listen, myself, I’m overweight, I’m gonna be using the excuse that I have thirty restaurants and I’m the chef and I need to test them. But I’m overweight. And I shouldn’t be. If I eat less, do somebody else will eat somewhere else? Maybe, because all of a sudden, if more than 40/50[%] of America is on the edge to be overweight, that means that we are causing inflation and I know it’ll be some people will do a meme into it.

But you think about it. If we’re consuming more, are we the ones generating inflation? This is food for thought. But if we have a country that is the richest country in the history of mankind, where we have a huge percentage of the population overweight, that means that a huge percentage of the population will be unhealthier quicker and faster than maybe we’ve ever been, even if right now you will argue that humanity, the age average is the longest it’s ever been in human history. Still, we understand that because the way we are eating and the way we are living, we are generating a huge health cost into our government. Health costs that should not be used just to fix people and fix Americans, but what if that money is invested in a smarter way to better education, better infrastructure, better high school lunch meals. All of a sudden, everything changes. If we are all healthier, money will go into investment in the betterment of certain parts of society that we need to invest in, versus just going to fix Americans that we get unhealthy, quick and fast, and then our hospitals are overwhelmed and we are just wasting money throwing it at the problem ‘let’s fix every American.’

So it’s things like this that can do a huge impact. But nothing will have more impact than right bills and right leadership by our Congress. And we’re lacking. And right now we have a farm bill that just helps big companies. I don’t have a brand with big companies. I have plenty of friends that are CEO’s of big companies and I want them to do the well. We need a big ecosystem of big, middle sized, and small companies to do well. What cannot be is that this huge farm bill specifically benefits a whole bunch of big companies that indirectly are causing huge issues in our food systems. And I’m not gonna get into the burger craze where everything is corn, how they are able to do a burger for 99 cents and still make money? Because I’m sorry, number one, they are very smart. But that corn is highly subsidized. It is unfair that big companies are able to be so successful with subsidizing certain crops, and the small farmers of America are not getting anything, just barely their crops. We need these smarter policies that will equalize the food field in America because these will have a very positive impact where it’ll trickle down all the way across America. We need to build and make rural America more productive but richer. It cannot be that the times it seems that people that feed the American people, people that feed the world, cannot feed themselves. This is a conundrum we need to solve and can only be solved if we have the smarter policies above. 

Polyakova: The ecosystem. We need to sustain and make sure we have a resilient food ecosystem not just in this country, but globally. That’s what you’re talking about here. 

Andrés: Venezuela, why we have millions- I’ve been in Venezuela, and I’ve been in the border in Colombia when Chavez took power, the biggest company that was providing, like in a key way farming seeds and system, that’s why Venezuela was an exporter of food. All of a sudden, they nationalized the company, and Venezuela all of a sudden is lacking food, they have to import food, food is too expensive, they can’t. Why do you see millions of Venezuelans, the biggest refugee crisis we’ve seen? They are in every single country, around Central America, South America, because food security, therefore, we are smarter in the way we do it, or we will only have more of those situations in the years to come. 

Polyakova: So one last question for you. You’ve described a slew of global problems, domestic problems, problems in our policy, problems in our global institutions. The fact that we’re not set up to really address the issues you describe. But are you optimistic? 

Andrés: Well, I’m highly optimistic, if we do things. That’s why we announced with George Washington University the creation of the Global Food Institute, which is only trying to be as smart about bringing the best minds in America and the best minds around the world to start making work in the government. The different departments more united when we talk about food. Right now, everything seems is US Department of Agriculture. But infrastructure has to be there. Homeland Security has to be there. The Department of Education, the Department of Health. You’re gonna say “José, what?” The Department of Defense; what the refugees in the southern border, from a country like Haiti, has to do with humanitarian aid, which is in another bill and handled by another department, that we gave to a country like Haiti. When the rich countries give too much food for free to the poor countries, we think it’s smart and we feel good. And I think sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

But when we only keep dumping the excess production we have because we can subsidize them because we are rich enough to do it. But we got to Haiti and dumped so much food that we put every single farmer that is producing rice and corn out of business because nobody’s buying from them because we don’t give them money. Just we give them the extra excess of production. Those Haitian farmers are leaving. One day, forty years later, you’re finding them in the southern border of United States. Our senators, that will not support giving money so we can buy from the poor farmers in the places we are trying to help, are the same senators that they complain that we have an immigration refugee crisis in the border. You see until our senators become as smart, that sometimes the same actions and bills create problems that they are even unaware [of], there is no way that we will have a good functioning government. Therefore, that’s why we have this Global Food Institute. I’m hopeful because I hope in the next 10 years, we will have a really, really good place where the best people, the best minds, the best ideas and things that problem-work, we will be able to move it not only to the American capitol but to every single government. And where finally food will stop being the problem. But at least then we will have a chance to food being the solution. 

Polyakova: Well, thank you, that was inspiring. I think one of my takeaways from this conversation is that it’s all about going to the communities, and ensuring the resilience of the local ecosystems first and foremost because this is how we have survived as humans for millions of yours. And what we’re seeing now is such a complete restructuring of our entire food global ecosystem that’s taken decades to develop. And we’re about to hit this point, if we don’t do anything, if we don’t take the kinds of actions you’re suggesting, where we’re going to see food-driven conflicts, we’re going to see more refugee crises, we’re going to see more and more global crises that we will not be able to meet the needs of anymore. Even now, I think we are struggling to meet global needs and things are just getting much more intensive, from climate change, from increasing conflict, from policy that haven’t adapted to the new reality we’re living in. And all the work you’re doing, again, it’s inspiring. Thank you, to you, but to World Central Kitchen, first and foremost, for everything you’ve done to help communities across the world, to work so directly with Ukrainians, and to help them rebuild, help them rediscover their own resilience, and their own courage and their own dedication. Thank you, Chef Andrés. Thank you, José, and thank you for receiving our Humanitarian Impact Award. 

Andrés: Well, on behalf of all the people in World Central Kitchen, and especially all the thousands of Ukrainians that work with us every day, just trying to bring hope with a plate of food. 

Polyakova: I have to ask you, did you make borscht in Ukraine? 

Andrés: Oh yeah many times. I’ve eaten so many types of borscht by now, I’m not gonna say I’m a borscht expert, but I’ve been in many communities where borscht is the big pot that feeds everyone. It’s what sometimes gives really, really happiness to some people going through very hard times. 

Polyakova: Absolutely. Thank you so much.  

Andrés: Thank you.  

Polyakova: Thank you so much for tuning into this conversation with Chef José Andrés, CEPA’s 2023 Humanitarian Impact Award recipient, on behalf of his organization the World Central Kitchen. It has been such an honor and I hope you found this conversation inspiring and interesting. Please follow us at for more content from the CEPA Forum. Use #CEPAForum on all your social media, whether that’s LinkedIn, X, Instagram or elsewhere, and stay tuned for more conversations and fireside chats with global leaders and influencers.