Celebrity chef José Andrés has won numerous awards and honors, from Bon Appetit Chef of the Year in 2004 to The James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef in 2011. In 2012, Time magazine named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Not too shabby.
Still, September 5, 2013 was a banner day for Andrés. That’s when he received a Hispanic Heritage Award in the design category, an honor in and of itself but made more extraordinary because it was the first time in the foundation’s 26 year history that a chef was honored in any category.
A video montage and voice over preceding the design award’s announcement touted it as a prize given to “individuals who promote Hispanic culture beyond [their] parameters through art and design.”
Colombian-American actor Yul Vazquez – who presented Andrés’ design award – highlighted the uniqueness of the category and its winner.
“When we think of fine cuisine, elegance and fine flavors come to mind. We never think of design. Well, that’s not the case with José Andrés. He’s taken the labor of a chef to a new level. In the process, he created a new style of cooking and a new way to help the world,” said Vazquez.
Andrés noted the distinction in his acceptance speech, saying he was “humbled and very excited to learn this is the first time a chef receives such an award and to know that we are doing great things to nurture our culture and traditions through our gastronomy.”
Andrés acceptance speech also addressed the issue of immigration, for which the chef received rousing applause from an audience comprised of fellow honorees Eva Longoria, Diego Luna, Lucero, and Juan Pablo Montoya, as well as luminaries in art, film and music, representatives from more than 50 national Hispanic organizations, and government officials including Sonia Sotomayor, Florida Congressman Joe Garcia, Education Secretary Arnie Duncan, and newly sworn in Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.
“It is a true honor for me to receive this award that recognizes the hard work of all of us immigrants who are presenting and promoting our heritage outside our countries,” said Andrés.
Announcing that he was mere weeks away from becoming an American citizen himself, Andrés dedicated his award to the many Latinos who work in kitchens and deliver produce to his and other restaurants daily.
Among those restaurants are Oyamel and Jaleo in Washington D.C., The Bazaar in Beverly Hills and Miami Beach, China Poblana in Las Vegas, and the recently opened Mi Casa in Puerto Rico. Additionally, Andrés hosts the PBS show Made in Spain, produces a line of Spanish food products, and has authored three books.
In closing his speech, Andrés said this of his adopted home: “America can tell you yes. It’s the country where things can happen.”
The Hispanic Heritage Awards airs on MundoFox Sunday, September 15 at 6:00 p.m. PST/EST.