The first ship bearing aid to Gaza since 2005, which arrived Friday, was spearheaded not by the United Nations or a world leader but by a celebrity chef, José Andrés. His charity World Central Kitchen partnered with with Spanish group Open Arms to bring some 200 tons of food to the territory beset with hunger.

Andrés built his name with cookbooks and restaurants including Jaleo and Minibar but has also become known for flying into disaster and conflict zones bearing food relief with the organization he co-founded.

Here’s what to know about the man who was behind the first ship bringing much-needed food to Gaza during the war.

The restaurateur was born in Spain and moved out of his parents’ home at 15, funding his independence with hospitality work. Culinary school, mentorship under a leading chef and a stint in the navy followed, before he landed in the United States at age 21. He had $50 to his name, he told the magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities when the organization awarded him its medal in 2015.

He moved to the nation’s capital to lead the kitchen at new restaurant Jaleo in 1993, helping spark a tapas craze. From that base he launched more than 30 restaurants, mostly in the United States, with many of the best-known in Washington, D.C. He had his first James Beard Award by 2003.

He founded World Central Kitchen in 2010 and has long been outspoken on issues of hunger, childhood obesity, subsidies for agribusiness, the minimum wage and immigration reform.

In 2013, he became an American citizen. He is married to Patricia Fernandez de la Cruz and the couple have three daughters.

When he was named one of the Time 100 most influential people in the world in 2018, fellow celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse wrote that Andrés was a “brilliant restaurateur who has shaped America’s culinary history and course by introducing his distinctive take on Spanish food and culture.”

What is World Central Kitchen?

Andrés and partners created World Central Kitchen after he went to help feed people in Haiti who had been devastated by a deadly earthquake.

The charity would grow from there, responding to a need for food after hurricanes in Houston and Puerto Rico, and wildfires in the western United States and in Australia. Its workers cooked for refugees living in tents at the U.S.-Mexico border and fleeing the war in Ukraine.

The group describes its mission as being “first to the frontlines, providing fresh meals in response to humanitarian, climate, and community crises.”

In 2021, Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, handed Andrés $100 million through his annual Courage and Civility Award.

The nonprofit has also faced criticism: Two Bloomberg investigations last year contained allegations Andrés directed staff and contractors into unsafe situations, that the organization lacked sufficient safety, governance and accounting protocols to match its rapid growth, and that it did not adequately respond to a pattern of sexual harassment of a senior employee. The charity responded to Bloomberg that it had made leadership team changes and set up new safeguards.

It has partnered on its Gaza mission with Open Arms, a Spanish nonprofit that specializes in sea rescues. Open Arms has worked to save refugees and migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean, to deliver aid after earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, and to evacuate refugees fleeing the Ukraine war.

How is he sending a ship to get aid into Gaza?

World Central Kitchen sent a ship from Cyprus to northern Gaza bearing about 200 tons of food. It was to be inspected by Israeli authorities on the way, an organization spokeswoman told The Post, and the delivery was dependent on their go-ahead. The territory’s north is beset by hunger, with increased reports of children dying of lack of food in recent weeks.

There is no port infrastructure in northern Gaza, but staff there constructed a jetty using rubble from bombarded buildings in preparation for the ship’s arrival, Andrés told U.S. lawmakers Thursday.

The aid will be distributed via World Central Kitchen’s existing network in Gaza, which includes more than 60 kitchens and several warehouses, with more being built, Andrés told The Post.

The ship is part of aid efforts over land, sea and air that have taken new shape in recent weeks.

It is the first aid ship Israel has permitted to reach Gaza’s shores in about 18 years, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday. Israel controls Gaza’s coastline and two sides of its land border; Egypt controls the third. An approved maritime corridor was negotiated between Israel and the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus and other stakeholders last week, and World Central Kitchen with Open Arms the first to use it.

The United States intends to build a temporary pier and distribute 2 million meals per day to Gaza delivered by sea, but this will take up to 60 days to construct, according to the Pentagon.

Since Oct. 21, when Israel and Egypt partly lifted the total siege imposed on the enclave from Oct. 9, limited numbers of trucks with essential supplies have been allowed in through two land crossings. Relief groups’ ability to distribute the goods within the Strip has been restricted by the Israeli military as well as by looting.

The United States and other nations have also commenced airdrops of food and water this month.