Q & A With José Andrés, Part 2: Frank Bruni, The White House Garden & How to Eat at Bazaar for Under $50
In yesterday's first part of our conversation with José Andrés, the chef sat down to chat about the Spanish pantry (his, ours), and cooking with Ferrán Adriá, which is where we left off. Andrés, whose La Cienega restaurant The Bazaar opened in the SLS hotel in 2008, spends plenty of time in Los Angeles, though he and his family have lived outside of Washington, D.C., for almost two decades, where he runs a handful of restaurants (Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, Cafe Atlantico, minibar by José Andrés) and is chairman emeritus of DC Central Kitchen.
Turn the page for more from Andrés -- the chef was born in Asturias and grew up outside of Barcelona -- and check back later today for his recipe for olive oil pancakes. Just the thing to do with all that olive oil that you ran out to get yesterday. You're on your own with the Jamón Ibérico, the paprika and the small mountain of cheeses.
José Andrés, with lollipop
Squid Ink: So what can education do?
José Andrés Education is everything. It's for everyone. We all need to be educated. We all need to be taking our jobs more seriously. Chefs, but also food critics, also food writers. You know, when The New York Times puts the food critic... He was a great writer, but to me it was a sad day, because he didn't have a clue about cooking, or the history of cooking, or food.
SI: You mean Frank Bruni?
JA: Yeah. Could be a good thing or could be a bad thing, because if he was representing people, maybe it was good that he was clueless. That's good. In the end it's what you think. He became good over the years, but he's like Jonathan [Gold] here. It's the same thing. If he doesn't want to understand this new thing that's happening, he's lost. It's the loss of his readers too, unfortunately.
Everyone needs to be learning. Me, I'm an encyclopedia. I'm not a very smart guy, but I'm an encyclopedia. You can ask me about anything you want. Probably I have the book, probably I have a first edition. If you ask me about Napoleon, I'll tell you about his relationship with sugar. And canning -- thanks to Napoleon we have canning. The food critics used to criticize why American cooking itself is not really what it should be.
SI: Do you think that's still true?
JA: Yeah. And I understand. America has invited everyone from around the world [here], and it's very difficult to find your own voice within everything. America's been very generous, allowing anything and everything coming in. It's hard for Americans to say, Who are we? But that's fine. That's why one of my contributions to America I wanted to be an American restaurant. But yeah, schools are good for everyone. It's good to know what's on the dark side too.
SI: What do you mean?
JA: If you think the other side is bad, it's okay, but you need to understand what they are in order to understand if they are really bad. More often than not we're afraid of what we don't know and what we don't understand.
SI: And you think that's what's happened with Adriá?
JA: Yeah. I mean, he's been maybe the most talked about chef in history, and he's only 46.
SI: He's only 46?
JA: Yeah, six years older than me. So, you know. But it's a good thing.
SI: Is there anybody working in the US now who you think is really going to change that?
JA: In terms of?
SI: Well, I guess in terms of incorporating these new techniques into modern cooking.
JA: I'm doing it. I've been doing it. Yeah, it's happening. I already see it. There's only one Ferrán. People have been incorporating his teachings into a broader approach, like it's easier to understand. I also try and have communication. Ferrán is more on his own. He cooks for him, and he's in another world.
SI: What do you think of the food scene in Los Angeles?
JA: It's great. I'd always heard that L.A. was so-so, it was not very wild. I don't know why, it's great. It's so diverse. The first time I came I ate at Patina, 14, 15 years ago. I cooked for a so many people, 1500 hundred people, for a big conference of travel agents of the world. But I think it's very amazing. I don't go out much, because when I come I get into the hotel. When I have time, I go around as much as I can.
SI: Any place you particularly like?
JA: Well, Urasawa is great. Spago is solid, it's amazing how that restaurant can be [going for] so many years. It's so difficult. Animal is great. But then there are these other places that no one writes about because there are so many. In Koreatown [for example]. And I've been going to the farmers market, buying ingredients and cooking for my buddies. I'll cook for Pau [Gasol, of the Lakers] sometimes after the market. It's fun when I come. It's good.
The most important thing that's happened in the last 18 years is chefs opening restaurants that are more affordable. Me, I'm going almost in the opposite direction, no? All my life I've had restaurants that were affordable. Now I'm opening restaurants that are less affordable. Even this one, I wanted it to be more affordable, but people don't let me. I put things like caviar on the menu, but you don't have to eat those. If you eat the croquetas and the Serrano you can leave here for under $50.
SI: Would you ever open a smaller place out here, a more casual place?
JA: Yeah, one day. I like L.A. This has been so much, that to open a second one is already like... well. But yeah, in time. This hotel has been so much in so many ways. I put three years of my life into opening this place. It was not just one day, Let's open. It was a lot of thinking, about the process. But you know, I think it's very important that chefs get more involved in opening restaurants that are affordable. We can not keep complaining about the big corporations and the fast food industry. We shouldn't fight against them either, but we should help by creating restaurants that can try to compete with those, so those will have to push to raise the level. That's one big contribution that chefs can have to the way we feed America. There's still a long way to go. But I think chefs, we should be more involved in opening restaurants that can serve quantity at a good price point with quality.
SI: How old are your kids?
JA: 10, 8 and 5.
SI: What do they like to eat?
SI: American food? Because you've all been here for awhile.
JA: They were born here. They eat everything.
SI: What's your favorite thing to cook for them?
JA: They like macaroni and cheese. But we make one that's very good, very healthy, with yogurt and a little grated cheese at the end and olive oil. Not that gummy disaster.
SI: What kind of cheese do you put in it?
JA: Depends what we have. They eat anything, from bleu to Cheddar to Manchego to Parmesan. We made it on the Today Show; they came with me. But now is a good moment for food, now with the First Lady. It's the first time ever we've seen leadership from above. And now with Jamie Oliver's show -- we'll see what happens with that one. But I think one of the biggest contributions of the Obama administration is going to be the work of Michelle on this issue. We'll see. Wait and see. I think it's going to be one of the biggest contributions of the First Lady, ever.
SI: Have you seen her garden?
JA: Yeah, I was cooking there the other day.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Los Angeles dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.