José Andrés Didn’t Want His World Central Kitchen Documentary to Feel Like a Reality Show

José Andrés

José Andrés

Chris Kousouros/National Geographic

José Andrés will always be a chef first and foremost, and his culinary career and work as a restauranteur alone would be enough to leave a lasting mark. But accolades like a portrait in the Smithsonian, which Chef Andrés received last year, aren’t handed out for a good paella alone. Instead, Andrés’ humanitarian efforts, including the founding of his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, are becoming an integral part of his legacy.

On May 27, that legacy — at least the first dozen years of it — will officially receive the feature-length documentary treatment: We Feed People, directed by none other than Ron Howard, will begin streaming on Disney+ courtesy of National Geographic Documentary Films.

National Geographic released the official two-minute trailer last week, stating that the film would spotlight “renowned chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen’s incredible mission and evolution over 12 years, from being a scrappy group of grassroots volunteers to becoming one of the most highly regarded humanitarian aid organizations in the disaster relief sector.”

But we caught up with Chef Andrés back in March, when he provided some insights into the story behind the film before its theatrical premiere in Austin at SXSW.

“Many times I was offered to do a documentary about my life or about World Central Kitchen, because my life is more than World Central Kitchen,” the chef told me with a chuckle. “I was never very interested… But then I met Ron.”

Andrés describes World Central Kitchen as “a beautiful thing,” but other potential filmmakers didn’t seem ready to nurture the chef’s vision. “Everybody wanted to do a reality show it seems to me, of the drama, of the suffering. But me, I’m more in the business of empowering people,” he said. “When I got to know Ron, I realized he was a beautiful story whisperer. But not because of the obvious things: He’s a man that cares, [he’s] man that listens.”

The chef also appreciated Ron’s willingness to work with the grassroots footage — “hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of hours,” according to Andrés — of people who had been documenting World Central Kitchen and, importantly, making their work more visible, from the beginning. “The crazy thing is that we’ve always been supported by many videographers,” Andrés explains. “Ron saw footage that was very real. It’s not like we were thinking about filming for a documentary.”

This also includes the vast amount of videos members of World Central Kitchen have logged on Twitter over the years, sometimes from multiple countries on the same day, which the chef believes is an important part of their global impact. “We show [the world] what we are doing, and this connection became so powerful,” Andrés said of their social media presence.

In the end, the chef and filmmaker were simply on the same page. “All the people that work with Ron and work with World Central Kitchen had the same sense, a style, of how to tell a story,” Andrés told me. “Ron and his team saw this story very obviously.”

We Feed People begins streaming May 27 on Disney+.