World Central Kitchen CEO abruptly exits amid nonprofit’s rapid growth

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Nate Mook remembers when Jose Andres told him to run World Central Kitchen. It was January 2018, and nonprofits were at large Transformed itself into a disaster relief organization Follow it Groundbreaking work In Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. At that point, Mook recalls, Andres said he needed someone he could trust to lead WCK.

But Mook said he would only take the CEO position if the organization followed the blueprint WCK discovered on the fly in Puerto Rico. “Many organizations go after the money first and then they do the work. Right?” Mook said during an interview with The Washington Post. “I said [to Andrés]’What we did in Puerto Rico and what I saw in Puerto Rico, we work on that and we figure out how to pay for it.’

“We’re going to be big,” Mook said he told Andres, “and we’re never going to make decisions based on how we’re going to make money. We’re going to work, and we’re going to let the work speak for itself. And if people don’t want to support us , so be it.”

Jose Andres delivers flour to Ukraine as World Central Kitchen expands operations

People, of course, supported WCK as Mook, a one-time filmmaker and entrepreneur, led the group through one disaster zone after another after becoming CEO in February 2018.

Started after the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010, WCK focused on a few modest programs with budgets of less than $1 million. But when the organization came to Puerto Rico in 2017 and began feeding the hungry, its revenue balloon to $21.6 millionAccordingly Financial reporting. Then in 2020, the pandemic kicked into high gear and the WCK A program started To feed Americans while activating dormant restaurants, the organization looked Revenue rose to $270 million.

Revenue is expected to top $400 million in 2022, Mook said, largely due to WCK. Work in Ukraine The following Russian invasion. As Mook puts it, WCK has been “cooking somewhere in the world every day since September 25, 2017.”

It would appear that, during his four-plus years at the helm of the WCK, Mook kept himself out of the job. Earlier this month, the organization’s board of directors and Mook agreed to part ways. This declaration a Short statement On August 2. The announcement gave no reason for the leadership change, and WCK’s press office declined interview requests.

What’s more, the press release offered only token gratitude to the man who hasn’t taken a day off in years: “We thank Nate for all his hard work and steadfast commitment to our mission of delivering meals to those in need around the world,” the board said in the announcement. The board named Eric Broxas, chief operating officer, and Erin Gore, senior vice president of development, as interim co-executive leaders.

A spokesperson for WCK said the organization will soon hire a global search firm to find its next CEO. She said the process will take at least a few months.

Mook said that, regardless of the opaque tone of the announcement, he and WCK parted ways on good terms. Both sides knew it was time to move on, though Mook said he would stay on for an undisclosed period to guide the transition.

“An organization that grows from a million a year to $400 million a year becomes a different organization,” Mook said. “It’s matured, and I’m very proud of that because, you know, if I quit and the organization collapses, obviously I wasn’t doing my job in building it.”

“I think the organization is in a different place right now in terms of what it needs and where it’s going. And so it felt like it was the right time,” added Mook.

One potential concern for the board could be WCK’s decision to begin operations in Ukraine, a humanitarian effort that has been underway for months. A war zone is very different from a disaster zone, Mook said, and the former CEO said he had several conversations with board members and Andres about WCK’s efforts in Ukraine, where the organization is serving 2 million meals a day. Not without some scary moments and close calls.

Global Central Kitchen partners are recovering from the attacks in Kharkiv

“We have to find a balance of meeting the needs and the urgency of the situation while keeping everyone safe,” Mook said. “Jose and I had a lot of discussions about it. Sometimes they have tense discussions: Where shall we go? How do we get across the country safely? How do we work with trusted local Ukrainian partners who know what’s going on? How do we make sure we’re keeping our board informed and that they know we’re taking the right steps?”

As the war progresses, the WCK will have to examine how it progresses in Ukraine, Mook said. WCK is a relief organization, designed to operate for a fixed period of time after a disaster. To maintain its operations in Ukraine, Mook said, the group could try to secure government funding or perhaps hand over operations to a United Nations agency.

On Wednesday, more than a week after the announcement, Andres personally thanked Mook. “12 years ago Met met Nate…12 years ago WCK was created,” Andres wrote. “Almost 5 years ago he came to Puerto Rico with me! Changed our lives…and the lives of many! We will miss you at @WCKitchen but I can’t wait to see what you do next..Gracias amigo!”

Andres also sent a text to the Post on Wednesday: “He’s moving on…he’s going to do great things,” Andres wrote of Mook. “WCK is moving forward … and we’ll get things together soon.”

Mook confirmed that he will be working more with Andres and WCK in the future. He would not reveal what those things might be.

‘We Feed People’ spotlights chef Jose Andres’ relief efforts

Meanwhile, Mook said he’s going to take time off. He says he hasn’t taken a vacation since July 2019. He will likely attend the Emmy Awards in September because “We feed people,” a documentary by Ron Howard about World Central Kitchen and Andres Nominated in two categories. (Howard’s doc, in fact, used a lot of footage shot by Mook producer and filmmaker For a manufacturing company What took you so long.)

Mook hopes he can take what he learned with WCK and apply it to other causes. “I never had time to say, ‘How can I bring the experience and expertise that brought Jose and I together in the early days that led us to where we are now … How can I bring that? Other things I’m interested in?’”

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