UPDATED: 8:15 p.m. Wednesday
First things first: Congratulations to Jose Andres for making Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. The air is so rarified on this list it’d cause a sherpa to faint.
The interesting thing about Andres’s inclusion — at least to me — is that he is listed as an “activist,” not a chef or even a chef-activist. Likewise, Anthony Bourdain’s feverish blurb focuses on Andres’s work outside the kitchen, not in it. Quote:
The man is capable of anything. After leaving Haiti, Jose, 42, would no doubt be lecturing at Harvard’s Science and Cooking course. Or working with the National Archives as a member of its board. Or raising money for D.C. Central Kitchen and its job training for the homeless. That this gift of Spain to the U.S. is best known as a great chef with a portfolio of extraordinary restaurants in Washington, Los Angeles and Las Vegas is almost beside the point. He’s bigger and more important than that. No one kitchen — or 10 — can contain him. He is advocate, promoter, entrepreneur, philanthropist, artist. Keep up with him at your peril.
When reached in Doha, Qatar, where he was scheduled to speak at the TedxSummit, Andres was not surprised to be called an activist rather than a chef. He suspects the printed copy of Time will describe him as a “chef-activist.” “The web editors are different,” he says.
Still, Andres was quick to name the activist-chefs who preceded him, such as Alice Waters, and suggested his Time mention can only help inspire more in his field to step up and help causes bigger than their cuisine.
True to Andres’s candor-first approach to life, he confided that his philanthropic efforts come with a side benefit for the chef. In 20 or 30 years, the 42-year-old Andres says, he’ll have to figure out what to do in retirement. “I don’t want to be sitting at home,” he told me. “I need to plant the seeds now because I want to do things.”
Andres is certainly no idle toque when it comes to activism and outreach. The chef’s team put together a lengthy list of charitable organizations that Andres has either founded or supports, not to mention a couple of universities that he works with. Given the sheer size of the list (you can review it below), it’s amazing to think that Andres also oversees an ever-expanding restaurant empire as well.
Was that Time’s point? That Andres is more activist than chef, even though he is the reigning James Beard Award winner as the nation’s Outstanding Chef?
Apparently not. Here’s what Howard Chua-Eoan, Time’s news director, had to say via a spokeswoman:
“We labeled him an activist because he is what I call a multi-purpose-driven chef. He is, of course, a culinary genius — but he is also the propagator of a particular line of haute cuisine (the school of Ferran Adria ) and a loud voice in the crusade against hunger and poverty. Both are kinds of activism. It would be a shame to just call him a chef when he has so many (and worthwhile) callings.”
It’s true that Andres has many callings. According to his team, the chef’s advocacy, education and outreach work include:
1. D.C. Central Kitchen: He is chairman emeritus of DCCK and creator of the group’s annual Capital Food Fight, which Andres and Bourdain co-host and which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Andres also volunteers in the kitchen.
2. World Central Kitchen: Andres founded this international organization to help create long-term solutions to global hunger.
3. Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves: Andres is the culinary ambassador for this group whose mission is to “save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions.”
5. The FreshFarm Markets FoodPrints project at Watkins Elementary School: Rob Wilder, co-founder and chief executive of ThinkFoodGroup, and Andres helped raise money and awareness for this project to teach elementary school students how to cook.
6. Let’s Move!: Andres has been an active (and often behind-the-scenes) supporter of first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign to fight childhood obesity.
9. Louisiana Seafood Chefs Council: As part of the group, Andres helps promote “fresh, wild-caught, sustainable Louisiana seafood.”