May 10, 2011 / 3:00 AM / 8 years ago

Innovative Spanish chef wins top U.S. cooking award

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Spanish chef Jose Andres, known for his innovative cooking and credited in popularizing tapas in America, won the award for outstanding U.S. chef on Monday.

The 41-year-old beat out veterans Gary Danko, Suzanne Goin, Paul Kahan and Charles Phan for the top honor handed out by the James Beard Foundation.

Andres, who grew up in the Asturias area in northern Spain, started as a young cook in el Bulli under the tutelage of Ferran Adria, who pioneered molecular gastronomy.

Andres moved to the United States in 1990 and has opened a string of acclaimed restaurants in Washington, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“Here’s an immigrant celebrating the melting pot,” he said.

“I feel like I’m an ambassador bringing Spain to America and also to the world.”

His minibar in Washington serves 30 to 35 small courses to six diners per seating, featuring avant-garde twists on guacamole, tzatziki and other global dishes.

In other major award categories, the James Beard Foundation named Michelin-star Eleven Madison Park in New York as the top restaurant of the year and its pastry chef Angela Pinkerton outstanding U.S. pastry chef.

Daniel Humm, executive chef at the restaurant, said the award would become an incentive for his team.

“It means a lot to be recognized because we push our team really hard. This (award) means they will push even more,” he said.

Celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen in New York nabbed the best new restaurant award.

The “Rising Star” honor for chefs under 30 went to Gabriel Rucker at Le Pigeon in Portland, Oregon.

“We wanted to celebrate the theme of the American melting pot,” said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation.

“Tonight represents what’s special about American cuisine. It represents all the people who live here.”

On Friday, the foundation awarded cookbook of the year to Diana Kennedy’s “Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy.”

Reporting by Richard Leong; editing by Elaine Lies

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