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How Jose Andres got A-list celebrities to appear in his GW commencement speech

Star chef Jose Andres kicked off his commencement speech at George Washington University on Sunday with a video of all his celebrity friends turning down the university's offer to speak and recommending their foodie friend instead. (The George Washington University)


Jose Andres didn’t have to give the hard sell to the celebs who appeared in the video he showed during the commencement address he gave at George Washington University this weekend.

Andres, the chef and owner of a slew of restaurants from Washington to Las Vegas, began his speech to the graduating class of 2014 with a short film explaining how he wound up with the speaking gig.  In it, A-listers, including actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman, Sam Waterston, Matt Dillon, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Attorney General Eric Holder and “Today Show” co-host Al Roker all appear, taking phone calls in which they turn down the job, claiming to be too busy.

The boldfacers are pals, a spokeswoman says. “It was one of those things where we started sending out e-mails — and everyone got on board.”

“We were just really fortunate that everyone was interested in participating.”

Andres befriended some of the celebs — like Paltrow, whose home he’s cooked in — through mutual foodie friends. Others he met through charitable work, like Dillon, who the chef met on an Amtrak train on the way to a Refugees International event, where Dillon was the emcee (guess they weren’t on the quiet car).

And though he has celebs on his contact list, Spanish-born Andres typically played it humble during the commencement speech, referring to himself as just a “cook” who got a shot at the American dream. His advice to the grads was to embrace hard work and to stay flexible. “Don’t use a recipe…if things don’t go as expected, make the unexpected work in your favor,” he told them “Change the name of the dish.”


Note: Sam Waterston’s name was misspelled in an earlier version.



Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.



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