Five Questions with Think Food Group’s José Andrés

From by Michael Halper
Five Questions with Think Food Group’s José Andrés

Food Tank, in partnership with the George Washington University, is hosting the 1st Annual Food Tank Summit in Washington D.C. on January 21-22, 2015.

This two-day event will feature more than 75 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policy makers, government officials, and students will come together for panels on topics including food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, farm workers, and more.

Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with José Andrés, internationally renowned chef, educator, and President of Think Food Group, who will be speaking at the summit.

Food Tank (FT): What will your message be at the Food Tank Summit?

José Andrés (JA): Eating is one thing, besides breathing, that we all do from the day we are born until the day we die.  And now more than ever, it is critical to recognize that food – how we grow it, sell it, cook it, and eat it – is as important as any other issue that we are facing, one that is vitally connected to our lives. From culture and energy, to art, science, the economy, national security, the environment, and health, everything is connected through the power of food, and we need to start giving it the attention it deserves. While food always seems to be part of the problem, we need to start seeing food as the solution. Food used the right way can end hunger. Food used the right way can help fight obesity and malnutrition. Food and the right farming practices will create employment in the developing world where it is needed most. Food when prepared the right way can help improve the environment. Food can be the answer.

(FT): How are you contributing to building a better food system?

(JA): Food policy demands are all around us, and I believe that as a chef, I am responsible for asking these questions and demanding these changes. The choices we make as members of the food industry are like voting; they show what we believe in and we have the influence to decide what’s good for people, and to help them understand what’s good for them. With the public’s growing interest in food and diet issues, politicians rarely include food as part of their political platforms. You hear a lot about how gas is the most important fuel for the planet, but it’s not. Food is, because it’s what moves everybody, and without food we are nothing. And not so far in the future, presidents and politicians, the leaders of our world, will have to have food on their agendas, and chefs need to be a part of that conversation.

(FT): What are the biggest obstacles or challenges you face in achieving your organization's goals?

(JA): I think one of our biggest challenges will be adapting our efforts to new landscapes of food and eating habits, like buying GMO-labeled foods or not, using new cooking technologies and eating more foods that are good for us and our customers. Our eating habits and how we feed ourselves are always evolving, and indifference could be our biggest threat. We have to be progressive and focused, because when you’re focused on a mission, there’s no such thing as an obstacle.

(FT): Who is your food hero and why?

(JA): I have a lot of heroes, but if I were to pick one from the kitchen, it would be Ferran Adrià. He is a genius in more ways than one, and is so generous with sharing his knowledge. If he were a pharmacist, the world would be healed. He is always thinking about innovation and creating new ways for us to experience food. From the business world, my food hero would be Robert Egger. He showed me that food does not have to be a part of the problem.  It can be part of the solution, and a successful business model that creates a profit and changes lives.

(FT): In 140 characters or less what is the most important thing we can all do to help change the food system?

(JA): To eat today is a political statement. We vote with the food we choose to eat, and this is a power we need to use wisely and efficiently.

The event is SOLD OUT, but interested participants can sign up for the live-stream HERE. Or JOIN US for dinner and a reception to celebrate Food Tank's two-year anniversary on January 21st at 5:30pm EST. This event will also sell out fast, REGISTER NOW.