Who Is José Andrés?
Born in Spain in 1969, José Andrés entered culinary school at age 15 before immigrating to the United States in 1991. His success with the restaurant Jaleo helped ignite an interest in Spanish food in the Washington, D.C. region, and spawned a culinary empire that expanded to more than two dozen venues under the ThinkFoodGroup banner. In 2010, Andrés founded the World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit that provides food to populations ravaged by disasters. He has also starred in TV programs including Made in Spain, published several cookbooks and earned accolades including a National Humanities Medal.
Childhood and Early Love of Cooking
José Ramón Andrés Puerta was born on July 13, 1969, in Mieres, Spain, before moving to the outskirts of Barcelona with his family around the age of five. The son of two nurses, Andrés often helped his parents in the kitchen; mom Marisa prepared simple but delicious meals on a tight budget, while dad Mariano churned out massive helpings of paella on weekends for friends and family.
Andrés has often told the story of how he eagerly waited for his chance to jump in and mix the paella, only to be told to tend to the cooking fire. One day, after his frustration boiled over, his dad took him aside to relay a lesson for the kitchen and beyond: If you learn to control the fire, then you can do any cooking you want.
The budding chef enrolled at Barcelona’s Escola de Restauració i Hostalatge at age 15 before conscription into the Spanish navy provided his first glimpse at the shores of the United States and the Caribbean. Andrés then resumed his career in the kitchen of Ferran Adrià’s famed El Bulli restaurant in Rosas, Spain, until a misunderstanding with his boss suddenly left him unemployed in late 1990.
Restaurants and ThinkFoodGroup
After moving to New York City with just $50 in his pocket, Andrés landed a job as a cook at the Eldorado Petit in Manhattan.
In 1993, Andrés moved to Washington, D.C. to run the kitchen of a new Spanish restaurant, Jaleo. He soon turned the restaurant into a prime dining destination.
More success arrived as Andrés expanded his reach in the D.C. area: He assumed control of Café Atlántico’s Nuevo Latino menu in 1995 and followed with the opening of Zaytinya, a Mediterranean restaurant, and Oyamel, a Mexican eatery. Meanwhile, he launched the tasting counter minibar by José Andrés, an acclaimed venue that went on to earn two Michelin stars.
In 2006, Andrés and partner Rob Wilder funneled their business interests into a parent company called ThinkFoodGroup. By late 2021, ThinkFoodGroup was overseeing 30 venues around the world, including é by José Andrés in Las Vegas and the Mercado Little Spain market in New York City.
World Central Kitchen
While already busy with his numerous restaurants, Andrés discovered a new outlet for his humanitarian interests in the wake of the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010. He went on to found World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit devoted to bringing food to people in the aftermath of natural disasters and other crises.
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The impact of World Central Kitchen became clear after Hurricane Maria upended Puerto Rico in September 2017. Within days of the disaster, Andrés and his team had arrived on the island and rallied local cooks and volunteers. By November, WCK had prepared and distributed an estimated four million meals throughout the country.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began shutting down businesses in 2020, WCK sprang into action with measures that included turning Mercado Little Spain and the Washington Nationals baseball stadium into community kitchens and food distribution centers. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, World Central Kitchen set up camp on the Poland border to feed refugees who had fled their home country.
In 2021, the nonprofit launched its Climate Disaster Fund, with the goal of raising $1 billion over a decade to combat the damages wrought by extreme weather events.
TV Shows and Books
Following the success of his Spanish-language show Vamos a Cocinar and appearances on American shows such as Iron Chef, Andrés earned his own TV platform in the United States with the debut of PBS’ Made in Spain in 2008. A joint travel and cooking show, Made in Spain features Andrés visiting all corners of his home country to hunt down and eat each region’s delicacies.
Made in Spain arrived with a companion cookbook, adding to a growing collection by the author that also includes Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America (2005) and Vegetables Unleashed (2019), as well as his memoir We Fed An Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time (2018).
In October 2021, the famed chef announced the launch of José Andrés Media to oversee developing properties in the fields of print media, television, podcasts and digital content.
Awards and Honors
Among his many accolades, Andrés has been honored by the James Beard Foundation as its top chef in 2011 and its humanitarian of the year in 2018. He also became the first chef to earn Spain’s Order of Arts and Letters medal in 2010; received a National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in 2016; and garnered a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2019.
Wife, Children and Personal Life
Andrés’ wife, Patricia Fernandez de la Cruz, is also a native of Spain, although she and Andrés met when they were both living in D.C. They were married in September 1995 and have three daughters: Carlota, Ines and Lucia.
Outspoken on issues of immigration, Andrés has penned op-eds about pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Both Andrés and Patricia became American citizens in 2013.
When he’s not traveling the world, Andrés lives with his family in Bethesda, Maryland. His non-gastronomic interests include scuba diving and kite surfing.