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When George Washington University announced in March that star chef José Andrés would be its 2014 commencement speaker, some students reacted with not-so-subtle disappointment that the owner of the restaurants they take their relatives to on Parents Weekend would be launching them into the real world.

But when Andrés, who teaches a course at GW, gave his address on the National Mall Sunday, he seemed well aware that many in the crowd were befuddled by his presence. “Even my daughters said, ‘They asked you to speak, or to cook lunch for the graduates?'” Andrés said. “I’m not a famous politician, journalist, or movie star. I’m not one of the coolest first ladies ever, obviously, and I have not been nominated for a Nobel Peace prize yet.”

Andrés then showed a video of celebrities turning down President Steven Knapp‘s request to be the commencement speakers. Among those who appeared in the video: Gwyneth Paltrow, Craig Ferguson, Al Roker, Eric Holder, Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman, Sam Waterston, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson. The celebrities then suggested that Knapp contact Andrés to be the commencement speaker. (Ferguson, of Modern Family fame, even provided an email address at which the chef can be contacted: sparklypaellaboi@hotmail.com.)


Watch the full commencement address here.

Photo by Jessica Sidman