PHOTO BY JASON WASHINGTON
José Andrés fell in love with the ocean as a young man, sailing on a coal ship while he served in the Spanish Navy. “I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than arriving in a new city through sailing,” the 49-year-old chef and humanitarian tells Hemispheres over coffee on a spring afternoon in the Bahamas. “The ocean is this amazing bridge; it connects people.”
This spring, he opened the second location of his restaurant Fish by José Andrés, at The Cove at Atlantis, Paradise Island, in the Bahamas. The menu is, in part, a celebration of the bounty of the Bahamian waters and the sustainable fishing practices that will hopefully preserve them for generations to come. Riffs on regional classics include wood-fired Nassau grouper and hog snapper, as well as five preparations of conch. But no dish embodies the restaurant’s locavore, sustainable ethos better than the whole fried lionfish. The lionfish is an invasive species that, over the past decade, has been wreaking havoc on Atlantic and Caribbean coral reef ecosystems. The spiny fish are spear-caught by area fishermen for minimal impact on the reefs, and then served over a bed of seaweed.
“In this case, overfishing can actually be done with positive connotations,” Andrés says. “We’re making sure that a fish that reproduces very easily and has no natural enemies becomes part of the solution, simply by serving it at a restaurant.” A portion of the proceeds from the dish go toward the Atlantis Blue Project, the resort’s nonprofit, which is devoted to marine conservation.
The new restaurant is yet another example of Andrés using his clout to support the islands in and around the Caribbean. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, he earned worldwide acclaim for serving more than 3 million meals to Puerto Ricans through the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, which he had founded after the cataclysmic 2010 earthquake in Haiti. This year alone, he’s been named to the Time 100, received the James Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year Award, and been granted an honorary doctorate by Tufts University.
“In Puerto Rico, we were there and realized the problem was way bigger than anybody claimed—way bigger,” he remembers. “And we took the challenge. It’s fun and artistic to feed the few, but it’s another adventure to feed the many.”