When I was asked by Samsonite as part of their #WeCarrytheWorld campaign who one of my favorite traveling chefs was, the answer was simple: Chef José Andrés. A few years ago, I started volunteering for an event called Dine N Dash (recap of the event here) where Chef José Andrés, along with other local Washington, DC restaurants open their doors to their restaurants to raise money for World Central Kitchen, a charity which provides job training, clean cooking supplies, and school kitchens. I was so impressed to see in person the humility and the sense of giving back that this man possesses first hand. You may have seen him traveling with other famous chefs such as Eric Ripert or Anthony Bourdain on TV. On this Travel Influences post, he shares with Dining Traveler how travel influences his work….
1. Your restaurant portfolio has everything from Mexican to your native Spain in terms of cuisine. How does travel influence the menus at your restaurants?
I am constantly inspired when I travel. Not a moment goes by when I am on a trip where I am not taking in something new: a new flavor, a way of preparing a dish, the use of a familiar ingredient in a new way. It is incredible! When I travel with my team to places like Peru, Spain, China, Japan, Mexico (and the list goes on!) to research new concepts, we taste everything and talk to as many people as we can about native dishes and flavors. I always want to immerse myself in the flavors of the place I am in.
2. You’ve travelled all over the world. Which cuisine has impacted you the most?
No matter how many new places inspire me, Spain will always be at the top of my list and the closest to my heart. It is amazing how many chefs in Spain continue to push the boundaries using classic Spanish ingredients and flavors. I love meeting purveyors young and old who are honoring Spain by making ciders, cheeses, and wines to share with the rest of the world. I’ve also been incredibly inspired by China, Peru, and Turkey.
3. You started World Central Kitchen after traveling to Haiti after the earthquake. What inspired you to start this project?
I have always felt that food can and should be an agent of change, and through food we can change the lives of so many people around the world for the better. After the earthquake hit Haiti, I knew that I had to help. People needed food, they needed clean cooking methods, and they needed jobs to rebuild their economy. World Central Kitchen started out to address so many of these basic necessities and because of that, we’re now able to provide things like clean cookstoves and culinary job training to people in Haiti and beyond.
4. Are there specific places you’ve traveled to that have inspired a specific restaurant of yours?
When we were doing research and development trips for China Chilcano, I was so moved by the flavors of Peru and all of the history that was behind each dish. China Chilcano celebrates not only the indigenous Criollo style, but also the influences of Chinese Chifa and Japanese Nikkei that have impacted Peru’s palate. On the menu, you will see everything from sashimi to ceviche to dim sum, from fried rice to lomo saltado. The influences of these cultures are represented across the menu. That could not have happened without traveling there.
5. As a frequent traveler, what is the one travel item you cannot live without?
Bose noise cancelling headphones – they let me unplug! When I’m flying I feel like I’m a bird flying over the clouds.
From personally witnessing Chef José Andrés advocating for proper food labeling at Capitol Hill to seeing him give back to our world community through World Central Kitchen, he’s proven to be inspiration not only in the kitchen but beyond. I am looking forward to seeing what he has in store for the future. Who’s your favorite traveling chef?