On March 28, 2013José Andrés answered the question:I am a lucky person because I grew up watching my mother and my father cooking. You could argue that was pleasure, but I can tell you that was necessity. In the ’60s, in the ‘70s in Spain, you would not go to restaurants; you would go to the market and you would feed the family by cooking at home.
It’s funny how a necessity becomes pleasure. So probably my mother and father were the early people that planted the seed in me on the meaning of feeding people, or feeding friends and feeding a family.
From there I met Ferran Adrià, who was nobody 26, 27, 28 years ago and today has become not only the most creative chef in the world, but probably one of the most amazing minds in the history of creation. So I got the best of home but then the best of one of the best professionals ever. So I was very lucky. I received influences from both.
On March 28, 2013José Andrés answered the question:Ingredients I cannot live without, quite frankly, has nothing to do with ingredients. Why? Because when I know there is so much need in the world and I see how happy people are with almost nothing, it would be almost shameful to tell you I cannot live without. Even I can tell you that I would like caviar, foie gras and oysters. I also love chickpeas and a humble egg. To me, a humble sardine will be the most sophisticated fish — way beyond tuna — but because there are so many and they are so cheap, we don’t give value to them.
So I can argue that usually humanity has the need to love what is the most expensive and the most difficult things to get. As humans, we need to start loving and endorsing the things that maybe are humble and easy and everywhere, but they are fascinating. A fresh peach in season with the juices flowing around your mouth with the sweetness, acidity, is the most fascinating thing you can be doing.
So my ingredients would not be food because I could live with any one.
On March 28, 2013José Andrés answered the question:I don’t have a favorite food because I only have one life. There’s only so many times I can eat. And to me, every moment of eating is a precious moment, because I never know when it’s the last time I’m going to be eating something. I don’t know when I’m going to be eating the last beautiful early-summer cherries from where I was born, or when I’m going to be eating the pine nuts from the pine tree when they’re green and they look like a crystal ball, and it’s the most unique pine nut in the history of mankind. Or a baby peach, when you can put the whole thing in your mouth and bite even into the seed, and it’s astonishing.
So I try never to replicate a dish. My wife and my kids will ask me, “Daddy, do this.” Every time I do a dish twice, it’s almost [like] I’m wasting my time. Even I understand that part of being a chef and having restaurants is duplicating, but me personally, as a person, as an entity away from my restaurants, I have a hard time repeating dishes as an eater, and even as a chef. I get bored.
On March 28, 2013José Andrés answered the question:What a great chef is — it’s very difficult, right? Because, is the chef the businessman? You know, many times people ask me, “Jose, you are not in the restaurant and the food is good, and the other day you were in the restaurant … ” The food is going to be as good if I am in the restaurant or if I am not, because the same people are cooking it. The chef is maybe at the top of the pyramid. I do have a whole bunch of people that are really the ones making it happen every day. To me, it’s almost insulting when someone says, “Well, the chef is not in the restaurant.” It’s amazing professionals, not only my restaurant group, but all across America and all across the world.
So a great chef will be a person that — if I was cooking every dish I serve, it would be about me, and whether I’m good or I’m not. Do I have the nose, do I have the palate, do I have the technique? But I am within a team, and I don’t see myself at the top of the pyramid actually; I see myself across the team.
So the great chef today will be one that is able to express himself through all this. So that means that you have to believe in your team. That means that you have to train them, to teach them spiritually as much as technically, physically. If you do both things well, you may have good restaurants. But the question of what a great chef is very complex.
On March 28, 2013José Andrés answered the question:When people ask me to describe my cuisine, it is very much almost an impossible answer. Why? Because I don’t see myself as a chef, I see myself as a storyteller. I’m not a good painter. I’m not a good singer. I’m a terrible writer. But I can cook. My way to tell stories is through my dishes, and where I try to listen, to learn, to smell, to travel, to learn about other cultures. Once I believe I have a story, this may be the moment I open a restaurant — not as a business, but as a way to share that story with the people.
So I may have a Mexican restaurant, I may have a great Spanish restaurant. But then I have a mini-bar, which is very much what we have here in the back: six seats, four or five cooks, 30 courses. But this is not about the long meal; this is about avant-garde cooking, about moving food and the way we understand food today forward. So you see, I’m a chef, but a chef with many faces is like light coming through a prism.
On March 28, 2013José Andrés answered the question:Creativity can come in many forms. Examples: I may go to Seattle to work next to Dale Chihuly and watch him in his studio blow glass. Out of watching him work and watching him paint, the work that he will pass to his artisans that then they will re-create his painting, creation, me and my team will learn. And actually I was able to cook with Dale Chihuly, and we did an entire menu inspired completely by his work.
We did the Chihuly Garden, which was this amazing caramel that had inside an entire drop of olive oil. This is probably the first time in history that olive oil was caramelized, re-creating his amazing glass-blowing sculptures, and put into a plate that looked like a beautiful garden in the same way he has shown his masterpieces across the world.
Or I may go to Boston and I may go to Harvard or MIT, and I may meet a scientist like Mr. Bush, who has been one guy that knows everything there is to know about water surface tension. Through him sharing with me and my team everything he knows about water surface tension, we have been working on two or three dishes for the last year and a half.
Or I may get a history book on the early 1800s in America, and I see that there was an oyster catcher. And that oyster catcher may be a moment of, “Why not start doing sauces with oysters?” Creativity starts at any moment. You have to be working in order for it to happen; nothing will ever happen at the beach under the sun. And you have to be aware because things pass in front of us all the time.
On March 28, 2013José Andrés answered the question:The most complex of dishes are the ones that are, on paper, pure works of simplicity. I was amazed when many, many, many years ago, I was in Vermont and I saw people eating maple syrup on top of the snow. This was something that went to my notebook of ideas and it took me almost 18 years to finally replicate it into a restaurant environment. We created what we call “Winter Goes Into Spring,” a beautiful ice, shaved like the snow, with beautiful flowers where the spring is already showing up and with the simple maple syrup on top — and some touches of lemon. But I was trying to recreate that moment that I believe is very genuine and very special.
You see, this is pure simplicity. I gave you maple syrup and I gave you ice. Simplicity is very difficult to achieve in cooking, because if you put 10 or 20 ingredients, which you see often, your mouth, your nose, your brain receives so many things that at the end you will say, “I liked it.” You don’t really know why you like it, but when you only play with one, two, three ingredients, the complexity escalates. I love new challenges. I love technique, to bring the best into the products I use. But I also love that story that I always try to tell.
On March 28, 2013José Andrés answered the question: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.