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Spanish Chef, José Andrés is Sending Paella into Space

José Andrés is not only a world-renowned chef; he is also a humanitarian who has devoted much of his work to feeding those in need. He has been building a restaurant career in the U.S. since 1990, and is credited with bringing tapas, a Spanish style of food consisting of small plate dishes, to the United States. His list of accomplishments both in the restaurant business and helping others seems to grow continuously, but his next project is definitely unexpected. Andrés is partnering with Axiom Space to send Spanish foods including Paella to the International Space Station.

Although sending food to space is an entirely new venture for Andrés, he is certainly no stranger to feeding people. In 2010 he founded the World Central Kitchen (WCK), a non-profit NGO that provides meals to those affected by natural disasters all over the world. In the 12 years the organization has existed, they’ve acted as first responders, working with local chefs to solve the issue of hunger following disasters in nine different countries. More recently, Andrés himself traveled to Ukraine to provide meals after the Russian invasion and plans to donate a large sum of money to the continued effort. Andrés has always dreamed big, and he says that before the opportunity to feed people in space was presented to him, he wanted to feed people underwater. 

In an interview for Food & Wine, Andrés stated that “feeding people for me is the ultimate challenge, especially in the edges of the known world”. He and his team, ThinkFoodGroup, are interested in pushing the limits of space food to a place NASA hasn’t gotten yet. The issue with space food is that it often requires some level of dehydration in order for it to be able to travel so far, and under certain conditions. This dehydration can often compromise the true taste and flavor profile of the food. Andrés and his director of research and development, Charisse Grey, needed to find a way to create meals that reflected the bold flavors of Spanish food while still following all of NASA’s guidelines. 

In order to make the meal nutrient-rich and flavorful, they settled on two main dishes which Spain is famous for. Along with additional options of Spanish jamón and salchichon (a Spanish sausage), the group will be sending Secreto de Cerdo with Pisto and Paella. The first is a dish made of Iberico Pork, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, and peppers. Paella, which Andrés feels so passionately about that he successfully fought to have an authentic emoji added, is one of Spain’s most famous dishes. It can be made in many variations depending on the ingredients, but traditionally includes rice, a type of meat and/or seafood, vegetables, and of course spices all cooked in a large and shallow pan. Paella is a meal meant to be shared with friends or family all eating out of one large pan, and André’s space Paella will be made with chicken and mushrooms. 

Given the communal tradition of Paella, Andrés hopes to preserve this part as well as the flavor. Although the Astronauts won’t actually be eating out of one large pan, they will be enjoying the meal together as a team. He also hopes that the success of his “paella pouches” could later be applied to disaster relief, such as in the warzones of Ukraine. Like space, disaster zones leave people with limited supplies and ingredients. Therefore, Andrés sees this project as more than just an additional accomplishment for his list, but rather an investment into his overall goal of feeding as many people as he can. 

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