ISM World 2024: Chef José Andrés on Managing Bottlenecks and Other Emergencies

May 01, 2024
By Sue Doerfler

José Andrés, celebrity chef, restaurateur and founder of World Central Kitchen, may seem like an unlikely keynote speaker at ISM World 2024, Institute for Supply Management®’s (ISM®) Annual Conference.

But for Andrés, just like for supply management practitioners, success is all about managing bottlenecks, particularly during emergencies. And too much data — or data that is not flowing properly — can cause or contribute to those bottlenecks. To solve problems, teamwork is key.

Andrés, who was born in Spain, moved to the U.S. at age 21 and owns restaurants in Las Vegas, Washington D.C. and Chicago, among other locations, joined ISM CEO Thomas W. Derry in a “fireside” chat on Wednesday morning at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The chat followed news Monday that World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that provides meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises, would resume operations in Gaza, several weeks following the death of seven staffers during an Israeli air strike. Derry asked for a minute of silence to honor the staffers and their families.

Before resuming operations, the organization had distributed more than 43 million meals. “We have been forced to make a decision: stop feeding altogether during one of the worst hunger crises ever, ending our operation that accounted for 62 percent of all International NGO aid, or keep feeding knowing that aid, aid workers, and civilians are being intimidated and killed,” a statement from the organization says.

“These are the hardest conversations and we have considered all perspectives when deliberating. Ultimately, we decided that we must keep feeding, continuing our mission of showing up to provide food to people during the toughest of times.”

For Andrés, cooking is the easiest part. “You can have warehouses full of things, but if those things aren’t getting to the people, you’re not succeeding,” he said. “The last mile is the key to success.”

Andrés is a natural storyteller, something that was apparent during the keynote speech as he demonstrated how bottlenecks occur in the restaurant industry by using items on hand, namely water bottles and a jacket, which drew laughter and applause from the audience.

During the keynote, the chef offered comments that apply to procurement and supply management — and to life in general:

  • The way to show respect to others is to invite them to the table.
  • It’s critical to be clear in communication and relaying the message.
  • Stay aligned with the mission.
  • The worst decision is the decision you don’t make.
  • Even bad decisions are great decisions because you are learning so much.
  • Food = love.

About the Author

Sue Doerfler

About the Author

As Senior Writer for Inside Supply Management® magazine, I cover topics, trends and issues relating to supply chain management.