This is what the Washington-based celebrity chef told them, both with his words and with his T-shirt, according to the newspaper: “I am an immigrant.”
“I am an immigrant and a proud American immigrant,” he said in a video posted to the newspaper’s website. “I am José Andrés, and together, with a message of inclusion, we can keep moving this amazing country forward.”
At Saturday’s tribute dinner in his honor, Andrés, who became a U.S. citizen in 2013, wore a black T-shirt that carried the phrase “I am an immigrant” under a white chef’s coat, according to the Herald. He revealed the T-shirt by removing his chef’s coat at the event, which the Herald reported was a fundraising effort for a local college’s hospitality school.
“The American dream of the 21st century is to be an America of inclusion, not of exclusion,” Andrés said, according to the newspaper.
The Herald reported that the audience stood and applauded the outspoken chef’s comments. NBC Latino wrote that Andrés “brought the house down” when he took off his coat, a moment NBC described as “electrifying.”
“I do believe in walls. We need to build a very big wall. The biggest wall. … We need to be building walls to build communities, to build schools, to build hospitals, to build community centers, soup kitchens,” Andrés told the crowd.
Andrés, an immigrant from Spain, recently closed some of his restaurants in the D.C. region as part of the “Day Without Immigrants” protest.
In 2015, Andrés backed out of a deal to open a restaurant in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, a decision he made because of the then-candidate’s comments about immigrants during the presidential campaign.
“Donald Trump’s recent statements disparaging immigrants make it impossible for my company and I to move forward with opening a successful Spanish restaurant in Trump International’s upcoming hotel in Washington, D.C.,” a statement explaining the decision read. “More than half of my team is Hispanic, as are many of our guests. And, as a proud Spanish immigrant and recently naturalized American citizen myself, I believe that every human being deserves respect, regardless of immigration status.”
At the event in South Beach, chef and television host Anthony Bourdain praised Andrés for his humanitarian work and activism, saying in an interview with the Herald that the chef was “always thinking of how we can do things differently, how we can help people, how we can make people’s lives better.” And he pointed out that Andrés has taken a “principled stand,” even though it might put his business in jeopardy.
“José risked everything to take a principled stand,” Bourdain said, according to the Herald. “And I don’t think he can be admired enough for that.”