Prominent Spanish chef-restaurateur José Andrés, whose nationwide restaurant empire is based in his adopted hometown of Washington, D.C., weighed in on the turmoil in Catalonia with an October 29 op-ed for The Washington Post, expressing his hope that the region will remain part of Spain while continuing to enjoy significant autonomy and a proud Catalan identity.
The region in northeastern Spain — which enjoys a language and culture distinct from that of the rest of the country — has been in turmoil since a referendum on independence, scheduled for October 1, was declared illegal by the central government in Madrid, leading to clashes between police and Catalan nationalists. The Catalan government eventually declared independence, leading Madrid to seize direct control of the region's government and call a new election for December 21.
In the op-ed, Andrés — who has become a notable political voice in recent years — calls for “sanity” using the Catalan word seny, which he explains also implies levelheadedness and integrity. The chef is highly critical of both sides in the conflict, calling the separatist leaders “deeply cynical” but also encouraging Madrid to be “more willing to listen.” Andrés claims that a “silent majority” of Catalans prefer to remain part of Spain while maintaining autonomy in government, language, and culture, and he calls upon such moderates to be more vocal in the debate.
Andrés was born in Asturias in 1969 but moved to Catalonia with his family in 1974. In the op-ed, he expresses a love for both Spain and Catalonia — calling the latter the “land of opportunity,” as it has long attracted immigrants from other regions.
The chef, who became an American citizen in 2013 and has served the State Department as a culinary ambassador, has been a vocal advocate for immigrants in the United States and has publicly clashed with xenophobic politicians.
It’s almost hard to believe that Andrés could find the time to pen an op-ed, as he’s recently been busy making headlines with his World Central Kitchen charity’s relief efforts in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. But the all-action chef always seems to find the energy to support any cause he believes in — here are 17 reasons José Andrés is the hero we all need.