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Jeff Bezos awards José Andrés $100 million for ‘Courage and Civility’

Jeff Bezos hugs chef José Andrés after announcing a $100 million award. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Lauded chef and humanitarian José Andrés picked up another accolade on Tuesday, when he collected a “Courage and Civility Award” from billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

The award isn’t just some bookshelf decor: It comes with $100 million that the recipient can distribute to the charities of his choosing. The announcement came at a high-profile moment for Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. Bezos revealed the new award and gave out the inaugural pair at the conclusion of a news conference following his flight to space aboard a rocket developed by his company, Blue Origin. The other award went to CNN commentator and activist Van Jones.

“We need unifiers and not vilifiers,” Bezos said before revealing the recipients. “People who argue hard and act hard for what they truly believe, but always with civility and never ad hominem attacks. And unfortunately we live in a world where this is too often not the case.”

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He called Jones and Andrés “role models.” Bezos noted that the recipients can distribute the $100 million however they like, noting they could give it “all to their own charity, or they can share the wealth.”

In his acceptance speech, Andrés indicated he would use the money to advance the work of his World Central Kitchen, which sweeps into areas around the globe affected by storms and other natural disasters to set up community kitchens that feed victims. But he also spoke of expanding his organization’s mission.

“This award itself cannot feed the world on its own,” he said. “But this is the start of a new chapter for us. It will allow us to think beyond the next hurricane to the bigger challenges we face.”

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He said he wanted to see food aid around the world double, and to change the way 3 billion people cook their food, “from dirty cookstoves to clean cookstoves.” He noted that the pandemic had forced many people into hunger and starvation, and that climate change was fueling the immigration crisis.

“We will be there with our boots on the ground when disaster strikes,” Andrés said. “But we will shoot for the stars, fighting hunger and the causes of hunger.”

Andrés’s other honors include the Humanitarian of the Year award from the James Beard Foundation in 2017 and the National Humanities Medal in 2015.

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