The Six Faces of José Andrés on Top Chef

Good cop, joker, and master of solar power.
The Six Faces of José Andrés on <em>Top Chef</em>
José Andrés (center) guest judges Top Chef season 13. Photograph courtesy of NBCUniversal.

Restaurateur José Andrés of the DC-based ThinkFoodGroup made a guest judge appearance on the fourth episode of Top Chef season 13. The Spanish chef is well known as an entrepreneur, TV personality, and creative mind behind restaurants like Zaytinya, where cheftestant Marjorie Meek-Bradley worked as a sous-chef. As a guest judge, he got to show even more sides to his personality. Here are a few:

The do-gooder: In a quick-fire challenge on the San Andreas Fault, contestants were challenged to prepare a dish using solar-powered cookstoves made by the company One Earth Designs. Andrés is a longtime champion of the clean energy appliances, which he brought to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. “We can change the world with them,” he said. When Alabama-based Wesley True won the challenge, a $10,000 donation was made in his name to World Central Kitchen, an organization led by Andrés that fights global hunger.

The philosopher: Cheftestants struggled with their solar powered cookstoves, which had to be pointed towards the sun in order to work. Andrés’s response to the ordeal was profound. “To unleash the power of the sun is easy,” he said. “But what’s very difficult is to control it.”

The good cop: Andrés’s approach to judging the quick-fire challenge seemed to follow the old adage: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. When sampling Phillip Frankland Lee’s dollop of sausage and oyster served on a flat stone he had just plucked from the desert, Andrés kept mum. Padma Lakshmi was less discreet, calling it “snot on a rock.”

The master of understatement: The biggest blunder of the quick-fire challenge came from LA-based Giselle Wellman, who added moisture to her solar oven, causing it to explode and spread shards of glass all over her station. Andrés managed to downplay the damage. “I’m amazed you were able to come up with a dish after the…hiccup,” he said.

The golfer: Episode Four was set in Palm Springs. The elimination challenge: prepare a four-course progressive meal, to be cooked and served on a golf course. “I love to golf,” said Andrés. “But the food is terrible more often than not.” The judges hit the links while cheftestants frantically chopped and sautéed nearby. “I hope they’re cooking better than we are putting,” Andrés observed.

The joker: After explaining the golf course elimination challenge to the chefs, Andrés said he hoped their cooking “really hit a hole in one.” Badum-tish.

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