How important is service in a restaurant to José Andrés?
Service very much can make and break a restaurant — even as much as food, if not more. People have a genuine interest in relations, and especially if you live in a close society. Coming to a restaurant is almost a moment that you have to meet your server, to connect with them. And that relationship is the bridge between the food in the kitchen and our guests. So service is very important.
My restaurants are always very informal, I will say, in their approach. It’s the way I am. I don’t like the old-fashioned way of service — you know you’re going to be wrong, because you don’t know which fork, which knife, which teaspoon to pick. Things have changed dramatically.
When people come to a restaurant, when people come to feed themselves, I want them to feel almost like they are coming to that sacred place, but at the same time, sacred shouldn’t be something where you feel like you don’t belong. You are part of it.
So the right service will help you find a home away from home. That’s what the restaurant should be. Remember, “restaurant” really comes from “restoration” — restoration of the spirit and restoration of your body through the foods you are about to be feeding yourself. Restoration is what we should be doing when we come to restaurants.
I think today we have so many eating places that we don’t see them anymore like that. But I wish that we will never, ever forget that the restaurant should be the place really to take the time to restore yourself. In the same way you may go to church or a synagogue or a mosque or in the middle of the mountains to look at the sky, you should come to a restaurant with that willingness to restore yourself.
I love to go to restaurants sometimes alone for that simple reason. I sit and I make sure that the two or three hours I’m going to spend are a moment of knowing more about myself.