Photo by Charles Ommanney

José Andrés

The 42-year-old James Beard Award-winner and owner of Bethesda’s Jaleo, as well as several highly regarded restaurants in the District and around the country, realized he was famous when he returned to his homeland of Spain after his Televisión Española cooking series, Vamos a cocinar, aired there in 2005. Standing in the airport, he noticed people peering toward him.

“I kept looking around and wondering who was coming,” he says. “And then I realized that they were looking at me.”

The Bethesda resident considers himself fortunate that fame came slowly, giving him a chance to develop.

“It began with people knowing me on my street,” says Andrés, who moved to the States in 1990. “Then I started getting recognized in my neighborhood, then my city, and then my state. It happened very gradually.”

Besides promoting his forthcoming restaurants in Miami and Puerto Rico, as well as Pepe, his Spanish sandwich food truck now roaming the streets of D.C., Andrés is busy talking about causes he’s passionate about, including ending world hunger.

“I spoke about the issues I cared about 20 years ago and I’m still talking about them now,” he says. “The only difference is that no one was listening to me in the beginning, and now Rush Limbaugh comments on what I say.”