Last week, the Hispanic Heritage Awards were held in Washington DC. They were established in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan to commemorate the creation of Hispanic Heritage Month. Since that time, the Hispanic Heritage Awards have honored top Latino leaders in various categories for their impact on America and the world. The honorees for 2013 included actress Eva Longoria, Community Service Award and Chef Jose Andres, Design Award. When I heard about the ceremony, I just knew I had to be there to celebrate honoring Chef Jose Andres.
While you all may know him for his incredible work in the arena of Spanish food, his untiring service in Haiti, his award-winning restaurants, his superb bars, his various James Beard nominations and awards, and his support of various charities like the DC Central Kitchen, I have the distinct honor of being able to call him a friend. I knew I had to be there to celebrate the man that Time magazine has called one of the 100 most influential in the world.
I watched as he charmed the press just before the award ceremony started. His wife, in her beautiful dress, stood by his side beaming with pride. His staff, I could help noticing, moved at lightening pace to make sure everything went according to plan.
As he stood on stage to take the award, he talked about coming to America with a few dollars in his pocket. The crowd burst into applause as he talked about achieving his dream. He words resonated with me, and everyone in the room — if he could make his dreams come true, we should all look at him as an example of how to do so.
He received a standing ovation from the crowd.
As I stood quietly in the press box and clapped for my friend, my mind was back in 2009. Chef Jose Andres had hosted the book party for my then new book Modern Spice at his home. It was an unforgettable evening of big editorial names, flowing wine and food as he graciously hosted every moment of the evening. I was an aspiring writer and totally awed by the experience.
As the evening ended, I sat on the side of his couch. I must have looked upset as he came over and asked, “Are you okay? Did you like the evening? You look a little sad.. are you okay?”
“I, I am fine. It was a great evening,” I mumbled and then blurted out the truth.. “I am hungry! I did not eat anything all evening.”
He started laughing. We all then went into his kitchen and he made us pancakes from batter that his daughters’ had made that morning.
My husband whispered, “Enjoy these. You will always remember when the greatest chef in the world fed you his magical pancakes.”
I clapped harder as Chef Jose Andres got the award. The crowd went wild and the clapping continued.
As the applause died down, I got up and left with a happy heart and a serious craving for pancakes.
Congratulations, chef. I wish you continued success!