Chef José Andrés to Receive 2020 John Steinbeck Award

In an iconic passage in The Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad declares, “Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.”

John Steinbeck wrote those words, Henry Fonda rendered them, and José Andrés lives them.

For his efforts in providing meals to millions of the hungry and dispossessed, Andrés will receive the John Steinbeck Award in the finale of a virtual event with Sean Penn on Monday, November 30, from 6-7 p.m. (PST). Penn received the Steinbeck Award in 2004.

The event — José Andrés and Sean Penn: A Conversation on Giving Back — is hosted by the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco and sponsored by the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San José State University. Ticket information and details for this virtual event can be found at

Andrés, a legendary chef and restaurateur, serves as the founder of the World Central Kitchen. Penn, a two-time Oscar winner, serves as co-founder of the Community Organized Relief Effort.

Andrés said, “This is a huge and humbling honor, to be receiving an award in the name of one of my very favorite authors, John Steinbeck – and to be on a list with icons like my friend Sean, the great Dolores Huerta, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen… c’mon man! Thank you to the people of San José State for this amazing award – the words and wisdom of Steinbeck are very close to my heart and the mission of World Central Kitchen, so this is meaningful to the entire team and me.”

Andrés and Penn have collaborated extensively as the World Central Kitchen and CORE confront the COVID-19 crisis. During the pandemic, World Central Kitchen has served nearly 25 million meals in the United States, Spain, and beyond, while CORE has provided tests for COVID-19 to millions of Americans, many in underserved communities.

The Steinbeck Center at San José State has the Steinbeck estate’s authorization to present awards to artists and activists who, through their work, embody the spirit of John Steinbeck’s social engagement.

SJSU professor Nick Taylor, director of the Steinbeck Center, explained the selection of this year’s honoree. “José Andrés is like a character out of a lost Steinbeck novel: a chef whose cuisine is the envy of kings, but who chooses instead to feed the world’s neediest people, wherever they may be. We salute the work of Chef Andrés and the team at World Central Kitchen.”