Chef Jose Andres was no novice to helping people who suffered catastrophes. After Hurricanes Sandy and Harvey, he worked with local chefs to help feed the survivors. But those events didn't prepare him for the devastation he saw when he landed in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hit. Working with his nonprofit World Central Kitchen and local chefs, the Michelin-starred Andres set up shop in the parking lot of a stadium to feed anyone who needed a hot meal. Andres, 48, resides in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife and children. For more on the restaurateur and philanthropist, check out his website (joseandres.com), Twitter (https://twitter.com/chefjoseandres) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/chefjoseandres).
Q. What was your experience like in Puerto Rico?
A. It has been an incredible experience to see the efforts of so many people. So many volunteers came together to feed that island. We were never thinking it would become as big as it did. We only came here to try to help a few thousand people at first and we ended up becoming the biggest restaurant in the world within the first week. It took an incredible amount of dedication and teamwork to accomplish that.
Q. You also visited Haiti to help. Have you been back?
A. I first went to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 to help feed people. (I was) immediately overcome with the absolute beauty of the country. I have been back many times since and love everything about it -- the people, the natural beauty, the beaches, the scuba diving and, of course, the food! Man, everyone should be going to Haiti. If you go, tell me! I can recommend some amazing dishes. You have to try the djon-djon rice and, of course, a rum sour.
Q. Where do you like to go for a vacation?
A. I don't have a single favorite vacation destination. There are too many incredible places to visit! But I love to scuba dive, so that's why I really like visiting the Caribbean. I go to Grand Cayman every January to be with my friend Eric Ripert at the Cayman Cookout. I have been discovering the Bahamas as well. We are actually opening a new restaurant there, Fish by José Andrés at The Cove Atlantis. It will be a beautiful restaurant showing off the best of seafood in the Caribbean. The new Bahamian team there is as committed as I am to supporting sustainable fishing practices and the protection of Bahamian coral reefs.
Q. Have you traveled to a place that stood out so much that you felt compelled to incorporate it into your work?
A. Since my first visit to Haiti, I set up a nonprofit organization, World Central Kitchen, to start working on creating smart solutions to hunger and poverty. WCK focuses on education, health and jobs through a variety of projects (like) building school kitchens to feed students, introducing clean cooking technologies to improve women's and children's health and opening cooking schools so that young people can get good jobs in the hospitality industry. It has been amazing to see positive change over the years, and to understand how food really can change the world.
Q. How do your travels inspire the dishes that you create?
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A. Every time I travel I am looking for new inspiration, new stories to tell through food. For example, when my team and I were planning to open China Chilcano in Washington D.C., a few years ago, we spent a lot of time in Peru to learn about the history of Peruvian cuisine, as well as the influences of Japanese and Chinese immigrants. The restaurant tells an immigration story. We have dishes from the Criollo Peruvian background, as well as from the Chinese Chifa and Japanese Nikkei cuisines. It is an amazing restaurant. You should go sometime!
Q. What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?
A. Life starts at the end of your comfort zone!
Q. If you've ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. Nearly every year, I go home to Spain to visit my family and my wife's family. It is really the best time to go because the seafood is so incredible in December and January. All year long I look forward to eating the most amazing sea urchin -- oricios -- that we have in the north of Spain, in Asturias where I was born. To eat a sea urchin is like kissing the sea and then you wash it down with the best cider in the world.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. I live just outside of Washington, D.C. It (is) my favorite, because it has been my home for 25 years and it is where I met my wife and raised my daughters. I grew up in Barcelona and love going back to visit every year. It is more and more vibrant and exciting every time I go back. The food in Tokyo is absolutely mind-blowing. Eating sushi there is one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. I love Los Angeles and New York. L.A. is so energetic and always exciting. And New York! It was one of the first places in the U.S. I ever visited when I was a young sailor in the Spanish Navy and it continues to be a magical place for me. I first moved there with $50 and my knives after leaving Spain and finally now I am going back with my first major project in New York City at Hudson Yards! It will be incredible. You will have to wait until late 2018, but I promise you it will be worth it!
(Jae-Ha Kim is a New York Times bestselling author and travel writer. You can respond to this column by visiting her website at www.jaehakim.com. You may also follow "Go Away With..." on Twitter at @GoAwayWithJae where Jae-Ha Kim welcomes your questions and comments.)(c) 2017 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.