Respect Poverty

Jose Andres turns his restaurants into a community kitchen amidst coronavirus pandemic

jose andres speaks to reporters in washington, d.c.

Story at a glance

  • All Jose Andres restaurants in the D.C. area are closed over concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • The chef and restaurateur announced on Twitter that some restaurants would transform into community kitchens and offer lunches for those in need.
  • The kitchens will be run through his nonprofit organization, World Central Kitchen, which has fed thousands around the world in areas struck by crises.

D.C.-based chef and restaurateur Jose Andres has set up kitchens in crisis-stricken areas around the world. As the novel coronavirus shuts down businesses, including his, the World Central Kitchen is setting up shop in the nation’s capital. 

In a video from his home in Bethesda, Md., Andres announced on March 15 that all of his restaurant locations in the D.C. area would be closing indefinitely. At the same time, the World Central Kitchen is operating community kitchens out of Zaytinya, Oyamel and Jaleo locations downtown, in Bethesda and Crystal City, in Arlington, Va.

“We cannot just keep going like this is not going to happen to us. In Europe, entire countries are shutting down entire restaurants and entire systems,” Andres said in the video. 

The nonprofit has also announced similar efforts in New York City and Little Rock, Ark., where the city has instituted a nightly curfew after COVID-19 cases rose to 22 on March 16.


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“At Think Food group, we always said that we want to change the world through the power of food. I do believe that that phrase more than ever today has a big meaning. We can all change the world through the power of food. In this case we need to bunker down,” Andres said in the video. 

His D.C. restaurants were all open over the weekend, before D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered restaurants, bars, movie theaters, health clubs, spas and massage parlors to close to patrons, while allowing “grab-and-go” service. Andres said in the video that visitors to the community kitchen could collect food from a takeout window and would be permitted to sit at tables on terraces, but that the situation could change at any point. 

“In this moment we need to be thinking that even if we were busy this weekend, that actually closing down is the best thing to do to make sure that this virus will go away sooner rather than later,” he said. 

The community kitchens will be staffed by the World Central Kitchen, while restaurant staff will continue to be paid for the next two weeks, after which Andres said he is looking into what the company can do. 

“I’ve been here 26 years, moving this company forward, and I plan to be here 25 years ahead,” he said.