When José Andrés backed out of his restaurant concept for the Trump Hotel in July 2015 after the candidate’s disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants, pundits and journalists weren’t even taking the candidate seriously yet. Andrés canceled his plans to open the Spanish-Japanese restaurant he had planned for the hotel, triggering a lawsuit and a countersuit — and today, he finds himself in the position of being embroiled in litigation against the company founded by the president-elect of the United States.
“It’s kind of a unique situation,” Andrés said. But he insists it will be business as usual at his ThinkFoodGroup.
“At the end, this is business for the Trump Organization and business for me, because we are a nation of laws,” Andrés said. “The lawyers, they do the litigation on our behalf, and things are settled in court, and everyone keeps moving. That’s why America is a great country: The laws work for everyone.”
It would not be the first time a sitting president faced litigation. Paula Jones’s sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton established the precedent that a sitting president has no immunity against civil lawsuits. Trump is embroiled in 75 lawsuits, according to USA Today.
Andrés is a naturalized American citizen who campaigned for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton last month. He wrote passionately in Eater about what it was like to vote in his first presidential election. “It gave me a big sense of pride, a feeling that my vote was more than just putting a piece of paper into a computer: that I was letting my voice be heard. Casting a vote is one of the biggest feelings of freedom we can experience as humans,” he wrote.
Andrés is disappointed that Clinton lost, but he’s focused on moving on. A Trump presidency feels especially grim for the residents of the District, which voted 93 percent in favor of Hillary, because the city has to welcome their adversary as a neighbor. But life will go on, Andrés says.
“I’ve been here 24 years,” he said. “I’ve seen Democrats moving in and Republicans moving in, and the world has always kept moving and the city has always evolved.”
One thing that’s different this time will be the fact that the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. will also own property at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. Trump’s luxury hotel, blocks from the White House, opened up with a BLT Prime in place of Andrés’ restaurant. Diplomatically, Andrés said he hopes it will do well.
“I only wish the hotel the best, because it’s good for the city,” he said. He thinks luxury hotels will elevate Washington’s profile, even if they’re owned by his legal foe.
Andrés avoided speaking negatively about Trump the day after the election.
“Washington and America will benefit from bringing the ideas of a businessman,” Andrés said. Trump will “hopefully bring some of his business wisdom that he’s had through his career, and hopefully improve the way that we run our government and our institutions.”
Andrés praised the part of the president-elect’s victory speech where he said: “Every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”
Andrés said: “I think those are great words. It’s true that there are always people left behind. I think we need to be moving everybody forward as best we can.”
And to the chefs who plan to ban Trump from their establishments, Andrés would like to have a word with you.
“I think that’s not what America is all about,” he said. To this newly minted citizen, America is about coming together.
“This moment, it seems really dark. At the end, we have a flag that usually brings all of us together,” he said. “You have people that are Republicans and they are Democrats, they all bring their hands to their hearts, and they look to the flag, and they all say the same thing. We have the respect of the flag that somehow defines who we are.”