Big deal alert: Cool dad and leader of the free world President Barack Obama has given D.C.-based chef José Andrés a National Humanities Medal for 2015. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) sponsors the awards, which celebrate a deeper “understanding of ourselves, our history and our culture.”
According to a release, each year, the NEH invites medalist nominations from individuals and organizations across the country. A total of 175 Americans have won the award since its inception in 1996. Andrés is one of twelve individuals to receive the award this year.
Andrés, who received his U.S. citizenship in 2013, joins beloved American authors, journalists, and radio personalities in this year’s class of honorees including Fresh Air’s Terry Gross; composer Wynton Marsalis; former Poet Laureate of the United States Louise Glück; and Alexander Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow.
The Spanish-born chef was spotlighted for his work in bringing “new and vibrant ingredients to our Nation, whether through his innovative techniques in the kitchen, his work on clean cooking technology and access to education, or the inspiration he provides to new Americans.” He currently operates 25 restaurants across the country, Mexico and Puerto Rico, including é by José Andrés in Vegas, minibar in D.C., and several locations of the fast casual chain Beefsteak.
Andrés is not the first food world luminary to win this award. Last year, school garden and farm-to-table advocate (of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse fame) Alice Waters was bestowed with a medal. Known for his advocacy for immigrants and fair labor practices, Andrés has been in the news lately because of an ongoing feud with Republican nominee for president Donald Trump. There’s no question that Andrés fits the bill for a National Humanities Medal, but from one perspective Obama’s nomination could look like a move motivated by the politics of our day: Obama honors a chef and snubs Trump in one swift and elegant move.
It took Andrés, a longtime resident of the U.S., 10 years to receive his citizenship. At that ceremony Obama called him "exhibit A of giving immigrants an opportunity," and then said the chef was "the quintessential American success story." Andrés was so proud to receive the documentation in 2013 that he tweeted the news:
People of America! 4 hours ago my wife and I became AMERICAN CITIZENS...thanks to all for being part of our world! pic.twitter.com/yW5MXZRTVS— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) November 14, 2013
President Obama will present the 2015 National Humanities Medals in conjunction with the National Medal of Arts during a White House ceremony on September 22.