By Fred Bollaci
Responding to the Worst of Times by Feeding Our Hungry One Plate at a Time.
IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT “THE TIMES MAKE THE MAN” OR IN THE ALTERNATE “THE MAN MAKES THE TIMES.” In the case of our newest Fearless Chef José Andrés, both can be said. Credited for introducing the Tapas or Spanish “small plate” concept to American diners, and spearheading the “small plate movement,” the trailblazing Spanish-born José Ramón Andrés Puerta is just 51 years old and has already achieved remarkable success in his career as a chef—29 restaurants—and counting, in addition to a dazzling list of awards and accolades (four Michelin Stars in total—two for each of his avant-garde tasting counters, minibar by José Andrés in Washington, D.C., and Somni in Los Angeles), in addition to recognition for the work of his World Central Kitchen (WCK), a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization he founded in 2010 to provide meals in the wake of natural disasters, which was perfectly poised at the forefront to feed our hungry and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Anyone who enjoys Tapas, or Spanish small plates in America owes a debt of gratitude to Chef Andrés. In the nearly three decades since coming to America, Andrés has left his culinary mark and has distinguished himself for his humanitarian efforts. If you haven’t dined at one of his restaurants, there are a plethora of options all across America, including in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami (South Beach), Orlando, and Dallas.
Chef Andrés was born on July 13, 1969 in Mieres, Principality of Asturias, in northwest Spain. At age 15, he enrolled in culinary school in Barcelona, went on to serve in the Spanish military as a chef, and continued working in Barcelona, where he met Ferran Adrià and worked three years at elBulli, which many considered the best restaurant in the world. In December 1990, he was fired by Adrià and decided to venture to the United States.
Andrés arrived in New York at age 21 with $50. He went to work as a cook in midtown Manhattan at an outpost of a popular Spanish restaurant, Eldorado Petit. During his time in New York, he also worked at The Quilted Giraffe.
In 1993, he relocated to Washington, D.C., where he was hired to lead the kitchen at Jaleo, a new tapas restaurant. In the years that followed, he helped the owners of Jaleo open more restaurants: Cafe Atlantico, Zaytinya and Oyamel, along with two more Jaleo locations.
In 2003, Andrés started minibar at a six-seat counter in Cafe Atlantico, where he served his most creative plates—reservations would fill up a month in advance.
As his restaurants in America enjoyed success, Andrés became more famous back in Spain, where he starred in his own cooking show, “Vamos a Cocinar,” which debuted in 2005. He also published his first book, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America, in 2005.
In 2006, he and Robert Wilder formed ThinkFoodGroup, making Andrés a co-owner in his restaurants. Together, they opened more restaurant concepts in Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Puerto Rico.
Today, Andrés is one of the most successful and admired restaurateurs and chefs in the world, both for his cuisine and business success, as well as for his generosity and humanitarian efforts. The 29 restaurants that make up ThinkFoodGroup span cuisines and cultures, price points and service styles.
José holds his identity close to his heart as a Spanish immigrant and an American citizen, placing upon himself the responsibility of both culinary ambassador and immigrant representing the United States and Spain.
World Central Kitchen was founded by Chef Andrés in 2010. Its first mission was to prepare food in Haiti following its devastating earthquake. The organization’s modus operandi is to start as a first responder and then collaborate with local chefs to develop solutions aimed at solving the problem of hunger immediately following a disaster. To date, the organization has responded to countless disasters in the United States, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Zambia, Peru, Cuba, Uganda, The Bahamas, and in Cambodia. Andrés was awarded a National Humanities Medal at a 2016 ceremony at The White House by President Obama for his work with World Central Kitchen.
Andrés gained even more notoriety as a leader of the disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Despite encountering major obstacles from FEMA and the U.S. government, he organized a grass-roots movement of chefs and volunteers to establish communications and food supply chains, and through WCK served over two million meals in the first month following the hurricane. WCK went on to develop resiliency centers in Puerto Rico and a facility in San Juan to provide safe drinking water. Also, in 2017, WCK responded to assist the American Red Cross in Houston following Hurricane Harvey in August, and to Ventura County, California to assist firefighters and first responders and provide food to families affected by the Thomas Fire in December.
For his efforts, Andrés was named the 2018 Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation, and he wrote a book about the experience, “We Fed an Island” The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time. Andrés was also named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time in 2018. WCK set up operations to serve the Hawaiian communities affected by a volcanic eruption, in South Carolina following Hurricane Florence, and along with Chefs Guy Fieri and Tyler Florence and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company brought Thanksgiving dinner to 15,000 survivors of the Camp Fire in Butte County, California.
In January 2019 WCK opened a restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. to feed federal workers that were furloughed during the government shutdown.
In September 2019, WCK and Andrés set up kitchens in The Bahamas to feed people in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, and in October they assisted in Sonoma County, working along with local chefs including Guy Fieri during the Kincade Fire.
In March 2020, WCK along with Bon Appetit Management Company fed thousands of stranded passengers for a week while the ship was under quarantine near San Francisco due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 50,000 meals were served.
In mid-March, Andrés transformed eight of his New York City and Washington, D.C. restaurants into soup kitchens to support customers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. WCK collaborated with Frontline Foods in order to deliver meals to local hospital staff in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In August 2020, Andrés set up operations following the massive explosion in Beirut.
Despite the disruption to the entire world due to COVID-19, Andrés continues tirelessly in his humanitarian efforts as new disasters strike—he was back on the ground in Honduras and Nicaragua following Category 4 Hurricane Eta and then in the Colombia and Nicaragua in November and December 2020 in response to Category 4 Hurricane Iota. This was after serving fresh meals near polling locations in 250 cities and towns during the historic 2020 election, believing that “a fresh meal is more than a plate of food—it’s a sign that someone cares and there’s hope for the future.”
For more information, visit www.joseandres.com | www.thinkfoodgroup.com, and www.wck.org
Play With Your Wine
WineGame is a Fun, Multiple-Choice Blind Tasting Game.
Turn any bottle of wine into a party! With the free WineGame app, you can play with friends and enjoy learning about wine!
As avid wine drinkers who enjoy a good time, we raise our glasses and toast WineGame, a wine lover’s dream come true! It started as “A little late night fun.
Over 20 years ago” when José Andrés and Rob Wilder started daring partners, colleagues and friends – whoever was at dinner, or in the kitchen after hours – to late-night blind wine tastings.
People soon rose to the challenge, showing up to supper with bottles of wine masked in foil or cloaked in a paper bag. Each guest would “host” a round with their wine, playing emcee as they poured tastes, giving tiny hints when asked– Old World or New World? Earthy or fruity? Players recorded their answers on a paper grid system. Scoring made it competitive and fun.
Fast forward 20 years: Rob meets Gary Mendel through a mutual tech friend, and invites him to play the pencil and paper blind tasting game. That round, which included TFG Sommelier Andy Myers, was more than a little daunting. Nonetheless, Gary found himself correctly guessing a few, and laughing a lot. With gaming gaining ground among GenX and Millenials, the same folks responsible for much of the wine consumed today in the US, WineGame raises the bar for a fun, educational drinking game.
WineGame is powered by proprietary technology based on a database built to include nearly every bottle in the world, generating logical answers so players can learn even from incorrect choices, making the game a fun learning experience.
How it works: Everyone downloads WineGame to their device. The game host conceals bottles in tinfoil or in paper bags. WineGame creates a code for the host to share. The host pours wine for each player and the game begins! Once started, players guess the grape varietal, country, region, and label, all via multiple-choice questions. Players get three tries per question, earning up to 12 points per round.
Blind Tasting for Beginners
- Blind tasting can be done anywhere.
- With any wines.
- No crystal needed — even paper cups work.
- Like most things, best with friends but also very pleasant alone.
- Relax. No matter your wine IQ, you can have fun and even win.
For more information on WineGame, and to try the app, it’s free, visit www.winegame.com