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José Andrés Named Chef of The Year

Photo courtesy of Think Food Group
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It's hard not to love José Andrés. We first caught the bug when we saw his jovial appearances on PBS cooking shows like Gourmet's "Diary of a Foodie" and "Made in Spain," which showcased his true passion for Spanish cuisine and ingredients -- and for life in general. (Those shows later played a large part in us moving to Barcelona, but that's another story.) Needless to say, when he decided to open up a cutting-edge, modernist tapas restaurant here in Los Angeles called the Bazaar in late 2008, we were thrilled. The adult playground of an establishment still continues to wow (even if the foie gras cotton candy is gone), and it's consistently on the list of places we recommend to out-of-towners for "must dines" when visiting the city.

So it comes as no surprise that the Daily Meal named the Catalan-born Andrés their Chef of the Year for 2012. Last year's award for American Chef of the Year went to Chicago's Grant Achatz of Alinea, Next, and the Aviary, for not only for his inventive approach to cooking, cocktails and restaurant service as a whole. Andrés is in great company. He has, after all, brought elevated Catalan and Spanish cuisine to the forefront with his numerous restaurants and television programs.

He also recently accepted the position of dean at the International Culinary Center in New York City, and is hoping to inspire a new generation of young cooks to embraces his native country's cuisine. Last March, he launched a food truck Pepe, opened a Miami incarnation of the Bazaar in L.A., and unveiled the reincarnation of his D.C. institution minibar. All of that happened in 2012, in addition to him keeping track of the countless restaurants he's got under his belt, including a few local faves.

If you haven't dined at the Bazaar, Tres, or Ssam Bar, you should. (Tres is actually partaking in the upcoming DineLA restaurant week, so you can get in on a budget. They happen to be one of our favorite spots to do lunch.) And next time you're in Vegas, be sure to check out his Chinese/Mexican fusion joint China Poblano, which is situated right next to the Sin City outpost of Jaleo at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. It is admittedly the only place we'd eat croquettas out of a shoe. Now that's trust.