José Andrés began his culinary career in Spain, moved to America in the 90s, and has created a tapas empire of over 30 restaurants ever since.
The two-star Michelin chef, who also holds four Bib Gourmand awards, may be better known for his humanitarian efforts, including immigration reform and establishing the nonprofit disaster-relief organization World Central Kitchen.
5 Facts About José Andrés
1. José Andrés’ went from chef to activist with one phone call.
In 2010, Manolo Vílchez, the Spanish head of a solar-powered stove company, alSol, was headed down to Haiti to distribute cooking equipment to survivors of a recent earthquake. Vílchez called Andrés to see if he wanted to join him to which he promptly packed a bag and headed to the airport.
For almost two weeks, Andrés and the alSol team set up more than a dozen solar cooking facilities around the island and taught residents how to use them. They also established a sanitation training program for the local cooks and built a bakery, which is still active today.
Andrés returned from the trip invigorated and immediately called Robert Egger, the head of DC Central Kitchen, a charity distributing unused food from local restaurants to the city’s homeless population, to propose creating an international version of the group. It would later be called World Central Kitchen.
2. José Andrés pioneered tapas in America!
The award-winning chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and television host originally emigrated from Spain in 1991 and set aim to popularize bold-flavored tapas to America. He has since succeeded!
A 29-year Jaleo employee, Maria Montes remembers: “No one understood tapas. People used to be surprised at the small dishes, and José would explain tapas at the table … that was the magic.”
Jaleo quickly rose to the ranks of DC’s top dining destinations by serving Andrés’ unique twist on small plates of paella, croquetas, patatas bravas, and jamón, amongst other signature Spanish dishes.
3. He sued Donald Trump!
Andrés had plans to open a restaurant in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. After Trump made racist comments about Mexican immigrants, Andrés, who was born in Spain and became a naturalized American citizen in 2013, promptly pulled out of the deal.
Trump sued Andrés for $10 million for breach of contract; Andrés then countersued for the $8 million he had already invested in the property.
Andrés argued that “the perception that Mr. Trump’s statements were anti-Hispanic made it very difficult to recruit appropriate staff for a Hispanic restaurant, to attract the requisite number of Hispanic food patrons for a profitable enterprise, and to raise capital for what was now an extraordinarily risky Spanish restaurant.”
4. Andrés has received four honorary Doctorate degrees!
George Washington University, Harvard, Georgetown, and Tufts University have all given the celebrated chef honorary doctorate degrees for his significant contributions to society.
In 2022, Andrés received the Doctor of Humane Letters from Harvard, stating, “I’m humbled to receive an honorary degree from Harvard who let me create the Science + Cooking class with my mentor Spanish chef Ferran Adrià despite never finishing high school!”
The two world-renowned chefs taught a 13-week course on Culinary Physics back in 2010. The curriculum began by teaching the fundamentals of physics and included demonstrations of molecular gastronomy trademarks such as emulsions and foams.
5. WCK has served over 300 million meals to communities impacted by natural disasters and humanitarian crises.
“World Central Kitchen started with a simple idea at home with my wife, Patricia: when people are hungry, send in cooks. Not tomorrow, today,” says Andrés.
Many of their meals are hot, with big, steaming pots of paella or chicken and rice. “It worries me that the only thing someone should get right after a disaster is some kind of military-style NutraPack or whatever they’re called,” says Andrés. “People need real food. They need the comfort of it.”
WCK has supported communities in Haiti, Cambodia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uganda, Zambia, the US during COVID-19, Ukraine, and most recently Gaza and Israel. They also recently launched a major initiative to support communities threatened by climate change.
Stay tuned for more fun facts that you might now know about other famous chefs.