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In the third installment of At the Chef’s Table with José Andrés, The Daily Meal’s video producer, Ali Rosen, chats with the chef about his expansions and the philosophies behind them.
"I think Washington [D.C.] never really got the credit it deserved for some reason; I love politics and I love to have a voice so this town became everything all at once for me," he said. With regards to his involvement in popularizing the dining concept of tapas in the U.S., Andrés remarks, "When I came to New York, I found a lot of Spanish restaurants, but the cooking I found here was somehow weak (it was very old-school); looking at the success of Japanese small plates dining, I thought 'This is what we were doing at elBulli, with the long tasting menus, but what if we brought the high-end, avant-garde style of eating all the way down to the lower check average?'" The result was Jaleo, which served high-end Spanish cuisine in a format that allowed people to order as much or as little as they wanted.
When it comes to his ever-expanding empire of restaurants, Andrés is known for fusing his Spanish culinary roots with cuisines from other cultures. He explains, "It happened kind of consciously in the sense that when I open a restaurant I’m really telling a story. Jaleo is the story of my childhood, the story of my country — but then I spent a lot of time traveling around Mexico and I decided I wanted to tell the story of Mexico that I saw through my eyes. So for me the restaurants are a way for me to keep myself and my team in a learning mode."
The concepts of Andrés’ restaurants don’t just range in terms of cuisine, though, they also run the gamut with regards to formality and price point. "For me it’s important because chefs like myself only feed the very few, and I do believe it’s a true need that we get involved with feeding the many. I have a feeling sometimes that the way we are feeding the vast majority of America, it’s almost a very narrow, homogenous flavor; it’s almost like everything tastes like the same ketchup from the same brand."
Check out the video from more from this exclusive interview with chef José Andrés and stay tuned for upcoming installments of this series.