Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2012

José Andrés

I was holed up in my room in a nearly empty hotel in Haiti, waiting for the hurricane said to be headed our way. It was a bad time even for that earthquake-afflicted country: cholera had broken out and was expected to spread. Suddenly I heard a familiar laugh, headed down to the bar and found José Andrés holding court with journalists on behalf of a solar-powered cookstove that cheaply boils water for people with little or no access to fuel. Encountering José in a crumbling hotel in Haiti was entirely to be expected.

The man is capable of anything. After leaving Haiti, José, 42, would no doubt be lecturing at Harvard's Science and Cooking course. Or working with the National Archives as a member of its board. Or raising money for D.C. Central Kitchen and its job training for the homeless. That this gift of Spain to the U.S. is best known as a great chef with a portfolio of extraordinary restaurants in Washington, Los Angeles and Las Vegas is almost beside the point. He's bigger and more important than that. No one kitchen — or 10 — can contain him. He is advocate, promoter, entrepreneur, philanthropist, artist. Keep up with him at your peril.

Bourdain is an author, a television host and a former chef