I confess to being something of a reverse snob. If something is really trendy or popular, the odds are pretty high I will dismiss it out of hand without even really giving it a fair shot. I’m not saying I’m proud of this character trait, just acknowledging it.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at heather@heatherdmartin.com.

I don’t watch reality shows, I don’t wear trendy clothes and I don’t know “who’s who.” I did follow my honey’s suggestion to listen to the podcast “Smartless,” because the banter is amusing. It was there I first heard about the celebrity chef Jose Andres.

At first, I was only partly listening. But at some point, I realized this particular guest was a different sort of person than the average “let me tell you about my latest movie/album/fun adventure” guest. Instead, this guy was talking less about his own amazing restaurants and more about World Central Kitchen, the organization he founded to feed people in the wake of disaster.

Yes, yes, I realize I am late to the party on this and that the entire rest of the world was hip to the amazing work of Chef Andres, but it was news to me.

The more I listened, the more astounding I found everything about this person.

First of all, I find expertise enthralling. I am captivated by competence. The actual area is not all that important. It could be at welding, policymaking, gardening, astrophysics. The thing I find interesting is the process of mastery, and Chef Andres is clearly a master of food. As a bonus, he radiates kindness and a love of life in general.


Secondly, the cause is worthy. The organization’s website notes Chef Andres’ realization that “food is the fastest way to rebuild our sense of community. We can put people back to work preparing it, and we can put lives back together by fighting hunger.”

I was so intrigued I backed the podcast up to the beginning and let it play from the top, giving it a real listen on the second go-round. What an impressive human.

The organization has worked to feed asylum seekers, natural disaster survivors and refugees. They have earned a sterling reputation for their organization and ability to mobilize rapidly, bringing aid without delay. Currently, they are at the border in Poland feeding Ukrainians fleeing the attack on their country. I was not surprised to read that they were there.

This story became local when Christian Hayes, a well-known chef and restaurateur from Portland and Yarmouth, joined.

Cooking is an emotional art. It sustains the body while serving up all sorts of emotional connections as well. Food is life. The flavors and seasonings reflect a sense of place, and the act of preparing food for another is tied tightly to our deepest cultural practices. It’s powerful stuff.

A husband and father of two who clearly connects with the families he is feeding, Hayes has been sharing his experiences on social media. Those posts are powerful stuff, too.

I offer my thanks to Hayes for giving his time, his skill and his caring. It was a big gift he gave. For those whose lives keep them in Maine, I note that World Central Kitchen has earned a score of a perfect 100 from Charity Navigator, a full four stars for donations. Another way to give.

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