Tuesdays with Tastemakers – José Andrés 5 min read
José Andrés was born in in Mieres, near Barcelona, Spain. He is a chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup, that launched Washington DC award-winning Café Atlantico, Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya and several other restaurants/bars, along with wildly successful Bazaar by José Andrés in Beverly Hills. José’s numerous undertakings involve cookbooks, TV appearances, food and wine events, philanthropy, teaching, consulting and mentoring.
José started cooking at the age 15. He trained in Michelin-adorned restaurants, including under such legendary chefs as Ferran Adrià at the world-famous El Bulli. When he arrived to the US, he quickly made a name for himself and is widely credited with introducing American audiences to tapas and authentic Spanish cuisine in general. His powerful and engaging personality, along with raw talent set standards and created an entirely new way of dining.
Throughout his career, José charisma found enthusiastic audiences with has peers, press and public alike.
Countless awards and mounds of press later, José is the producer of the PBS series Made in Spain, a culinary study, has authored numerous cookbooks and appears frequently on “Early Show,” “Iron Chef,” “Top Chef,” “Martha Stewart,” “No Reservations,” “Today Show” and many more. He is the Chairman Emeritus at Central Kitchen, which battles hunger and facilitates culinary pursuits. In May 2012, Andrés was named dean of Spanish Studies at the International Culinary Center, for which he had developed an epicurean course. George Washington University, where he teaches food and civilization class, subsequently presented him with an honorary doctorate degree in public service.
Gregarious, with an infinite sense of humor, José is as well-known for his warm, radiant spirit and infectious laughter as for his gastronomic prowess. He is one of the most beloved culinary figures of our time.
Why did you become a chef?
I don’t think I became a cook. I was born a cook. Helping my father cook, attending culinary school, cooking in a professional kitchen, these to me were natural moves.
If you weren’t a chef what would you be and why?
I’d be an actor. When I was young I acted in many plays—I was the title character in Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost”.
What is your greatest strength as a chef?
My team- we are only as good as the people around us and I have great people.
What is your biggest weakness as a chef?
That I always have so much left to learn, and too little time!
What’s the one mistake you made in the kitchen that you would never repeat?
When I was young I dropped a very long tray of canelones—that is a stuffed pasta from Spain’s Catalonia region—into a fish tank.
What is your proudest achievement?
I am incredibly proud of the bakery, Boulanjri Beni, and the fish restaurant, Pwason Beni, that my team at World Central Kitchen and I opened in the Zanmi Beni orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. These businesses are helping the orphanage support itself!
What was your scariest kitchen experience to date?
Every restaurant opening has its moments…
What is your favorite word or saying?
“Success is moving from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm,” from Winston Churchill.
What is your most prized possession?
My 1825 first edition of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s “Physiology of Taste”- he was a visionary, the man who first said “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”
What’s the oddest thing about you?
I collect Japanese graphic novels (manga), especially Oishinbo, which is a long-running series about cooking. It’s a very popular manga in Japan that was adapted into a TV series, and it also happens to be a great way to learn about the fundamentals of Japanese cuisine.
What song best sums you up?
The theme song of my show, Made in Spain, is “Adelantando” from the band Jarabe de Palo. Adelantando means “to move forward”. I never want to stand still, to stagnate.
What is your favorite memory?
I’ll never forget coming into New York Harbor for the first time, under the Verrazano Bridge, while I was perched high up on the mast of the great Spanish tall ship the Juan Sebastián Elcano.
Which of the five senses is your strongest?
Smell. But then taste is so connected to smell, it has to be both!
What is your biggest motivation?
When I see people who have nothing approach life with big smiles on their faces every day, that motivates me to work hard so I can help more of them.
What one food group would choose to be stranded with on a deserted island?
Vegetables- the sexiest food group. For me, that will include truffles, morels, and margaritas! You know, tequila is a vegetable.
What is the difference between a good and great meal?
The story behind the food, the ingredients, the preparation.
Name three individuals you would like to have dinner with.
Stephen Hawking, and, if I could bend the rules of space and time, John Steinbeck and the legendary Viking king Ragnar Lodbrok.
Who is your kitchen hero or mentor?
Without a doubt, my mentor is Ferran Adrià. And my two kitchen heroes are Albert Adrià and Anthony Bourdain.
What does the concept of “balanced meal” mean to you?
To start, more vegetables! But we have to be smart about what we eat. We can vote with our plates. And so to do something like “eating local” without thinking about the impact it could have on farmers in Haiti or Mexico, that is not balanced to me.
What is the one thing you want people to remember about your food?
That eating food should be fun, but also thought-provoking. We vote with what we eat and with the way we shop.
Best comment made about your food? Was it by a loved one, guest or media?
It’s whenever my three daughters say “Yum!”