FOOD-ANDRES

The award recognizes chef José Andrés for his public-spiritedness.

Long before José Andrés was the celebrity chef who fed the island of Puerto Rico, he was an immigrant who was flipping channels on TV, when he landed on a show that happened to catch his eye.

He had flipped the channel to PBS and began to watch a show starring “that woman with a very funny kind of tone of voice,” he said in a PBS interview. “I was fascinated by the way she would express herself. The way she will seem to enjoy life. The way she will make you feel like that one chicken she had in front of her was the most important thing in the history of mankind. And I guess, in part, I learned English watching that woman.”

The woman was Julia Child. And the younger chef who was so inspired by her sunny TV personality will soon receive an award in her honor. The Julia Child Foundation has announced that Andrés will be the 2019 recipient of the Julia Child Award, to be presented in November at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where Child’s kitchen is an attraction.

Each year, the award is given to a figure in the culinary world who best embodies Child’s legacy as a teacher, mentor and communicator. Andrés was selected because he exemplifies Child’s independence and public-spiritedness, said Eric Spivey, chairman of the foundation.

“He’s teaching us how to cook, but he’s teaching us how to be humanitarians,” Spivey said. “How to be involved in our public, in the community and ... trying to help others before focusing on yourself.”

Spanish-born Andrés came to the United States in 1991 and helped launch America’s tapas craze with Jaleo, the Washington restaurant he opened in 1993. Accolades and more than 25 restaurants followed, from the upscale Bazaar in Beverly Hills to the fast-casual Beefsteak chain. All the while, Andrés has racked up awards for his cooking, including an Outstanding Chef Award from the James Beard Foundation and two Michelin stars for Minibar, his molecular gastronomy restaurant.

Then in 2017, Andrés’ World Central Kitchen — a mobile food-relief operation that had been founded in 2010 after a devastating earthquake in Haiti — stepped up to feed the island of Puerto Rico when FEMA disaster relief was disorganized and slow after Hurricane Maria. World Central Kitchen served more meals than the Red Cross. The Beard foundation awarded Andrés its Humanitarian of the Year Award, and he wrote a book, “We Fed an Island.”

“Many chefs have focused a large part of their career on charitable efforts. José sort of upended the whole model,” Spivey said.

Winners of the Julia Child Award are given $50,000 to donate to a food charity of their choice. Andrés will grant the money to his own charity, World Central Kitchen.

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