Legendary chef José Andrés joined the fun on Top Chef this week, stopping by Palm Springs for a very special quickfire challenge. The restaurateur behind D.C.'s Zaytinya (a former home to Season 13 contestant Marjorie Meek-Bradley) and The Bazaar brought solar-powered cookstoves for a new take on responsible cooking. Chef Andrés chatted with The Daily Dish about taking an environmentally friendly approach to his kitchens, the performance of Season 13 cheftestants thus far, and Danny Meyer's headline-making no tipping policy.
Why did you want to be part of this Quickfire Challenge?
Top Chef is an unbelievable show, so I couldn’t wait to be a part of the action as a guest judge again. When we discussed the idea of using clean cookstoves, I got excited to show the people of America how this simple technology can create amazing meals and have a huge impact in developing countries. When people use clean cooking fuels instead of firewood, they’re healthier because they aren’t breathing toxic smoke. They are also preserving forests and maintaining farming and fishing industries because when they collect too much wood, deforestation happens, and when the rain comes, it washes away the soil farmers would use, flows into the ocean and has an impact on marine life. You see, food is interconnected with our lives, and that’s why this technology is so important.
You cooked before with solar power stoves in Haiti, what do you hope these chefs learn from cooking with solar powered stoves?
Through my experiences in Haiti, I’ve seen first-hand how clean cookstoves can make an impact in people’s lives. It’s what led me to also get involved in the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which is dedicated to switching 100 million people to clean, more efficient cooking by 2020. That is so powerful, people! My hope is that the chefs saw how you can create incredible meals using these clean cookstoves, and help to bring awareness around these solutions that can have such an amazing impact on so many people’s lives.
How did you think the cheftestants did?
When they trusted their instincts, they did great! None of these chefs had experience cooking on clean cookstoves before this challenge and were pretty hesitant. I think when they learned the basic principle of controlling the fire with this unfamiliar tool, they were very successful.
What do you want viewers at home to take away from this episode?
How effective clean cookstoves can be to cook an incredible meal. Cooking a meal is one of the most dangerous activities for people in the developing world, but we have the power to change that through clean cookstoves. On the show, you saw the cheftestants working with solar powered clean cookstoves from GoSun, but there are many others like the BioLite Basecamp, Burn Stove Jikokoa, CleanCook Two-Burner Stove, and SolSource – One Earth Design.
After appearing on this episode, which contestants do you think have the ability to go all the way?
Based on how they handled the Quickfire Challenge with the clean cookstoves, I think there were a lot of promising contestants, but hey – I don’t want to play favorites this early!
What do you think about the recent effort made by Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio to remove tipping from their restaurants? How will it affect the restaurant industry?
My team and I are always looking for new ways to ensure fair pay for all of our employees, while maintaining the guest experience. We think Danny Meyer’s revenue-based model and Tom Colicchio’s approach is a great start, and admire that they are testing a possible solution to a challenge that is not a new issue. I think many people are watching closely, and seeing how this impacts our industry.
How will your New York location of The Bazaar differ from the Beverly Hills, South Beach, and Las Vegas locations? Is there anything specific you keep in mind when opening a restaurant in New York City?
Every Bazaar is a unique and different experience. I’ve looked forward to opening a restaurant in New York City since I first arrived from Spain in 1990. The city is filled with amazing restaurants, many helmed by my good friends, and I’m so honored and humbled to be adding my own voice to the culinary landscape - stay tuned for more details!
See what the cheftestants created in this week's elimination challenge.