Famous for: Bringing the concept of small-plate dining to America and putting Spanish cooking permanently on the map. One of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2012 and “a loud voice in the crusade against poverty and hunger,” according to the Washington Post.
Activism: Launched the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, dedicated to feeding and empowering vulnerable people in crisis, supporting local agriculture and promoting nutritious foods.
Education: Didn’t finish high school but teaches Science & Cooking at Harvard as well as “The World on a Plate: How Food Shapes Civilization” at George Washington University. He is Dean of Spanish Studies at the International Culinary Center in New York City. After attending the School of Restaurants and Hotels of Barcelona, he apprenticed with Ferran Adrià at elBulli.
Sea Legs: Grew up in Asturias, in northwestern Spain, which is on the Atlantic Ocean and famous for crabs, sea snails and sea urchins. Could make paella by the age of 12.
First tasted Louisiana Seafood: “I remember being a young boy, just 19 years old in the Spanish Navy. We came to the United States and it was the first time I had tasted an American red snapper. I thought it was beyond fascinating.”
Loves Louisiana Seafood because: “The Gulf is a place where the waters have a lot of character.”
Favorite Louisiana Seafood: “Raw shrimp heads, salted down for four or five minutes, are sublime.”
Awards: Countless. TIME magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012, James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef Award in 2011, Condé Nast Traveler’s “Hot Restaurateur” in 2011, Order of Arts and Letters medallion by the Spanish cabinet in 2010, recognized by the Vilcek Foundation in 2010 for his contributions to the culinary arts in America, Richard Melman Award from Restaurant Hospitality in 2010, James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America in 2007, and Food Arts’ Silver Spoon Award in 2005.
Ambition: “Politics, of course. I would like to be in the business of reinventing politics. I don’t think that today we are accomplishing what we could accomplish.”
Passions: Scuba diving, soccer, golf, tennis, collecting books associated with food, and playing basketball at least once a week.
Favorite seafood he didn’t make himself: :The Shrimp Salpicón served in the VIP room at the stadium where FC Barcelona (Futbol Club Barcelona) plays.
Kid stuff: “My daughters, ages 13, 11 and 8, are good cooks already, especially at pancakes.”
Proudest accomplishment: “I was able to leave everything behind and come to the States.”
Advice: “Creativity catches you when you’re working, never when you’re on the beach.”