Pepin. Soltner. Torres. Lucchetti. Richman. Andres.
The names represent a culinary pantheon in America — the kind of icons fit to rise up out of those “Iron Chef” silos embedded in the stage. Until recently, all but the last superstar chef of that pack also answered to the title of dean, as in leaders of New York’s International Culinary Center, nee French Culinary Institute.
Now, Washington’s own perpetual, influential chef-restaurateur in motion, Jose Andres , can add that to his c.v. as well. On Wednesday, the institute will officially name Andres as dean of Spanish studies.
Not bad for a man who didn’t finish high school.
“Everybody has been talking about Spanish cooking; it’s the hottest of the past few years,” Andres told AWCE on Monday. “This is the right moment for a true Spanish curriculum, the first, at one of the top culinary schools in America. I am very excited to be doing it.” He sees the project as a generator for jobs and cultural exchange.
For the past two years, Andres has been working to make it happen, with his friend, institute founder and chief executive Dorothy Cann Hamilton, as well noted food writer and editorial director of The DailyMeal.com, Colman Andrews, whom the chef considers an expert on Catalan cuisine.
“Very few people know more about Spain, outside, than he” does, Andres says. “No foreigner has a better eye view. The book he wrote 20 years ago is still the best to me.”
The three- to four-month program is scheduled to be up and running by the first quarter of 2013, Andres says. Students will be learning the language in the process, and a trip to Spain will be part of the curriculum. The country’s culture, cooking techniques and tools and regional differences will be covered, with some geography and history thrown in. Further details will be released in the fall.
“For me to be up there with my heroes — Jacques Pepin, Andre Soltner — is just amazing. Even getting my photo next to theirs is a dream,” Andres says. “And hopefully, dare I say it? We could bring this to Washington one day.”