Georgetown University Master's in Technology Management students and guest students were recently served up a special dish of ethics, creativity and passion by renowned Master Chef José Andrés.
Andrés , owner of the Washington, D.C.-based Think Food Group, is the culinary innovator behind many local and national restaurants such as Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, Café Atlántico and minibar. He is also a passionate advocate for ending world hunger.
"Technology is something that still is not being put into service for the people of Third World countries," Andrés told a class of Ethics in Technology Management students attending the July 11 lecture at the Clarendon campus of the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies. "To me, it's highly unethical that we have the know-how that we don’t apply.”
The Power of Creativity
After making an exploratory trip to post-earthquake Haiti, Andrés decided to start the non-profit World Central Kitchen to help feed and empower vulnerable communities. While much aide is given to countries such as Haiti, Andrés said, it’s often assistance that’s shortsighted and lacking in creative solutions to provide sustainable benefits.
"To be creative we need to be ahead of whatever is happening," he told students. "If we're behind, we’re always finding solutions to problems instead of being creative – to make sure things don’t even become a problem."
A critical component to finding solutions is originality: "Creativity is not to copy," said Andrés, who provided video demonstrations of some of the breakthrough technologies he uses in his restaurants. He also shared a video of a solar-powered kitchen design he is experimenting with as a potential low-cost cooking source.
"The truth is," he told the class, "I feed the very few who can afford my creative dishes. But I’m just as interested in feeding the many for non-profit."
The Complicated Hunger Cycle
Andrés, on several occasions, has visited Haiti to get a more complete picture of the root causes of hunger there. What he has found is a complex system of struggles.
Haitians, he observed, still primarily cook their food using firewood and charcoal, resulting in chronic asthma among families gathering close to the fires. Haitian children are often asked to spend hours retrieving wood from the far-away mountains, he said, ensuring that generations of Haitians remain uneducated and the continued collection of wood only adds to the country’s deforestation plight. Ultimately, massive deforestation leads to further soil erosion and the flash flooding of homes and livelihoods.
"All because they are still cooking like they used to cook thousands of years ago," Andrés said. "We can put a man on mars, but still we have people who are cooking like this. We aren’t putting creativity into service."
Through his World Central Kitchen organization, Andrés calls for more creative solutions and smarter assistance programs. While the giving of food and clothing may seem generous, Andrés said, such gifts ultimately put small farmers and merchants out of business, creating an endless cycle of dependence on aide. He believes it is much wiser to put gift dollars towards refrigeration, farm equipment, packaging, improved transportation and other sustainable investments.
"We're going to have to look deeper into how we give. One dollar invested into a solution will create –by far – more worth in the long term. The money will then go back into the community to begin a new cycle of life."