It’s hard to imagine a profession that leaves less time for volunteering than that of chef, what with a typical workday lasting 12 to 15 hours (and sometimes even longer). Still, a remarkable number of chefs, among them Jose Andres, Patricio Sandoval and Martha Ortiz Chapa, prioritize charitable work as part of their professional and personal duties.
Click on to learn more about some of our favorite Latino Chefs and the charities they’ve worked...
Ferran Adrian and elBulli Foundation
When Ferran Adria left the kitchen of his famed restaurant, elBulli, in 2011, it wasn’t to write cookbooks (though he has done that), go on a speaking tour (though he’s done that, too), or launch his own line of kitchen gear and goods (as far as we know he hasn’t done that); it was to dedicate himself full-time to the development and growth of elBulli Foundation.
This is not a traditional charitable project; rather, it is best described as an effort to organize and share culinary knowledge and stimulate creativity, both online and in Roses, Cataluñya. Soon, anyone who is interested will be able to visit elBulli1846, the Foundation’s center, which will be housed in the former restaurant. Those who would prefer to access the Foundation’s storehouse of information will be able to do so online.
The primary goal, says Adria, who founded the restaurant with business partner Juli Soler, “is to maintain the spirit of elBulli–its creativity, honesty, effort, rigor, and passion for the kitchen–for many years to come.”
Martha Ortiz Chapa and Breast Cancer Awareness
Back in 2012, Chef Martha Ortiz Chapa of Mexico City’s Dulce Patria was invited to participate in a unique breast cancer awareness campaign in which her semi-nude portrait was displayed alongside those of 14 other women on one of Mexico City’s busiest avenues.
Though she has not had breast cancer herself, she became actively involved with fundraising and other projects intended to help cancer patients and survivors, and has only stepped up her commitment since the 2012 campaign. In addition to planning and hosting dinners and gala events to raise money for cancer research, Ortiz has taught cooking classes to women with cancer.
The goal is two-fold: help women learn to cook meals that will be beneficial to their treatment and to do so in a setting and with other people that promotes their emotional well-being. As with most charitable work, Ortiz says, the experience is as meaningful for her as it is for participants.
Jose Andres and the World Central Kitchen
Jose Andres may be best known for his ever-expanding culinary empire, which includes restaurants in Washington, D.C., Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, and Miami’s South Beach, but he also wants his loyal fans to know about his humanitarian organization, World Central Kitchen. The chef founded this non-profit in 2011 and was granted 501(c)3 status the following year, but the seed for the organization was planted much earlier.
“I had a wakeup call when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans,” he says; “thousands were left without food for over 72 hours. When an earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, I decided to fly down to cook for people who were desperate for nourishment. It was my time to act, but I wanted to offer a sustainable solution.”
That solution was World Central Kitchen, which addresses food insecurity and malnutrition by tapping into a talent pool of chefs who assist in building sustainable kitchens, provide technical assistance for small businesses, and train communities in culinary skills, food safety, and food service management.
“Food should be accessible to everyone,” says José Andrés. World Central Kitchen is trying to make sure it is.
Alex Atala and the ATA Institute
Chef Alex Atala, whose Sao Paulo-based D.O.M. is currently ranked the sixth best restaurant in the world, could easily get away with the “But I’m too busy to do charitable work” excuse. In 2013, he was not only helming his kitchen, he also published a book and participated as a presenter or speaker in a number of international culinary festivals and events, including Mistura 2013 and MAD 2013.
And yet, Atala’s most important passion project might well be the ATA Institute, a foundation he established with a dual mission in mind: first, to raise consciousness about native Brazilian ingredients and the environmental issues surrounding their growth, distribution, and consumption, and second, to create a more reliable, livable income for Brazilian farmers and producers by increasing global interest in sustainable Brazilian products, including ants, jiquitaia (a chile), and others.
As often as he can, Atala leaves his Sao Paulo kitchen and heads into the Amazon to learn from and collaborate with the producers he has come to regard as his business partners.
Patricio Sandoval and Tacos for Strength
Who can resist a delicious taco? Almost no one. And if some of the proceeds from that taco benefit projects intended to combat childhood hunger, so much the better.
That’s the thinking behind Chef Patricio Sandoval’s Tacos for Strength program, which enters its fourth year this month. Each year, Chef Sandoval reaches out to 12 colleagues, inviting them to create a signature taco, which he features on the menu of his Mercadito restaurants for one month each.
“Over the past three years, I’ve had the honor of working with some of the best [chefs] in the business, who created innovative tacos from drawing on personal memories and favorite cuisines,” Sandoval says. In 2013, Sandoval’s restaurants sold 2,595 of the tacos, generating $2,000 in donations for the non-profit organization, Share Our Strength. This year’s Tacos for Strength line-up will feature Chef Sean Brock of the popular Charleston, SC restaurant, Husk, and Chef Edward Lee, of Louisville, KY’s 610 Magnolia, among others from diverse culinary and geographical backgrounds.
Danny Mena and City Harvest
2013 was a busy year for Chef Danny Mena, who kept one foot firmly planted in his kitchen at Hecho en Dumbo and another in the kitchen at his brand new hotspot, Sembrado. And yet, where other folks might have scaled back their charitable activities, at least temporarily, Mena actually found himself getting more deeply involved in his work with New York City’s food rescue and redistribution program, City Harvest.
“I’m actively involved in City Harvest,” says Mena, “and we’re trying to collect 50 million pounds of food for people in need.” Mena, who had already spent the past four years donating food for the organization’s fundraising galas, joined its Food Council in 2014.
“I’ve become more deeply involved in events,” Mena says, “giving away food after catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy. I also go to mobile markets where we give away food to people in need and create easy, healthy recipes that use the ingredients that we’re donating.”