José Andrés Closes Food Class, Dishing Knowledge, Paella

Local chefs and GW faculty recognized student groups for their final projects on a food issue.

Chef Jose Andres
José Andrés cooks a paella on Kogan Plaza Monday to celebrate the end of his inaugural class at GW.
May 01, 2013

By Kurtis Hiatt

Internationally renowned Spanish Chef José Andrés ended his first George Washington University food class on Monday with the very charge he gave students at the beginning.

“I don’t know, when you graduate from this great university, what you will do with your life, but at the very least I hope you learned from this class,” said the owner of ThinkFoodGroup, which includes area restaurants Jaleo, Zatinya and Oyamel. “And whatever you do and whatever you become, just remember in any decision you make, anytime you have the power to change the way we’re feeding America or feeding the world, make sure you use it in your thinking process.”

The students heard Mr. Andrés’s closing thoughts after a semester of learning about all things food in his “World on Plate: How Food Shapes Civilization” course. On the syllabus throughout the semester were topics ranging from food as an industry to the craft of cooking, and hunger, obesity and food politics issues. Well-known food influencers--Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel series “Bizarre Foods”; Harold McGee, author of “On Food and Cooking”; Alice Kamps, who curated the National Archives exhibit “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?”; Christopher Kimball, founder of Cooks Illustrated; and GW faculty--stopped in to lend their expertise.

By the last class on Monday, the students were well-equipped to confront a food problem head on and work to solve it. In short videos, teams of students addressed issues from proposed food truck regulations to food deserts.

In a class contest judged by local chefs and university faculty, “Mission Nutrition,” which aimed to educate fourth graders on reading labels and eating healthy, took first place. Students who took the SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge, along with students who explored how to attract GW students to the Foggy Bottom FRESHFARM Market, received second place. The third-place prize went to a project on healthy eating in college.

Above anything else, the class demonstrated just how important food is, Diane Robinson Knapp, chair of the Urban Food Task Force, told the students.

“Food touches every part of our lives,” she said. “All of the issues are very complex, and I appreciate your learning more about that and tackling some of those issues with these videos.”

Addressing those issues will take the work of everyone, Mr. Andrés said as he ended the class and headed over to Kogan Plaza with students to enjoy his giant paella celebrating the end of the semester.

“We need chefs, we need farmers, we need historians, we need lawyers. We need businesspeople, we need politicians,” he said. “I hope that’s what you are taking away from this class. That we need many people, from different angles, to really make meaningful change.”

But Mr. Andrés couldn’t finish the class without one other important note. To the university, he offered his gratitude:

“Many of us in the food community thank you very much for your leadership, and opening your doors to the many people who believe that food is an agent of change.”