Restaurateur José Andrés Dreams of Milking the Clouds

In a conversation with architect David Rockwell, the philanthropic chef urges an invested effort in technology that could collect water from the clouds

When more than 25 big thinkers convened at the Smithsonian Arts & Industries Building last December for an eight-hour relay of two-person dialogues, each one had an optimism to share. One thing that provides hope for the future.

Like a practiced politician, restaurateur José Andrés blatantly ignored his interviewer David Rockwell’s first question to jump right to his big, bright hope.

“Imagine if we could milk the clouds,” Andrés said, at the inaugural event. The second annual “Long Conversation” will bring an impressive group of scientists, musicians, inventors, tech CEOs and others together on December 7, 2018. (Watch it on livestream here.)

The idea came to the philanthropic chef, who most recently led a massive effort to feed Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Maria, when he was in Haiti in 2010. “After the earthquake in Haiti, I got that need to get on a plane and go there and begin cooking,” Andrés said. He founded World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit dedicated to providing meals after natural disasters, and, among other projects, built a school lunch building and a farm that produced a small percentage of the food for the operation in a mountain town called Palmiste Tambe. Clouds constantly passed over, but ultimately there wasn’t enough water to sustain the farm.

“Every time that we have one of those big clouds, imagine that we could be sending a zeppelin and we can be capturing the cloud as it passes above us and we can be redirecting that water into that zeppelin or bring it down to Earth to the place we want it,” said Andrés. “Wouldn’t it be a very beautiful way to make sure that every place on Earth has the water it needs?”

Listen to Andrés describe this dream and the fog collectors that may one day make it a reality.

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