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Spanish-American chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen have been on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries since war broke out on February 24. They work with partner restaurants, community kitchens, and countless volunteers to prepare and deliver food to refugee centers, bomb shelters, hospitals, places of worship, and people trapped on the front lines.

Moved by the efforts of Chef Andrés, I assembled this cento (“patchwork poem”) from his own words, which I gleaned primarily from his tweets to a million-plus followers. If you’d like, you may read an annotated version of the cento here that documents its sources.



a cento honoring Chef José Andrés
and World Central Kitchen

There are many mines all over the forest.
Shelling continues.
From here we can hear the explosions.

When nothing makes sense,
feeding people is what makes sense.
Longer tables.
Working together
as one big factory,
one plate of food at a time

rolled pork with spinach
sesame chicken
roasted potatoes
rice with vegetables
chicken stew
the best sandwiches you can imagine

Food is love.
Food cannot wait.

This is how we do it:
We don’t plan.
We don’t meet.
We come

groups of friends

and we begin cooking,
to give hope in the middle of the horror,

to make sure all the people know they’re seen
and are welcome to the goodness of the earth.

That’s the power of a plate of food.
It’s not so complicated.

If you are lost,
share a plate of food
with a stranger.
You will find who you are.


Please consider making a donation to World Central Kitchen. Also, you might wish to follow this suggestion from Chef Andrés: “Put a lot of thought into what you are eating and what food means to you … The choices we make show what we believe in.”


Photo by Gonard Fluit on Unsplash


Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.

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