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June 12, 2008

Cover story –

Magnifico Matador!

By David Roffman

June 11th 2008

  Esplendorsa, José! The James Beard Foundation nominated José Andrés Outstanding Chef for his work at minibar by josé andrés. On Sunday evening, June 8, at Avery Fisher Hall, in the Lincoln Center, in the big apple, our very own Jose Andres, born in Mieres, Asturias, Spain some forty years ago, was in elite company competing for the ulimate prize at the prestigious James Beard Foundation awards show, OUTSTANDING CHEF, given to a working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals.

And just like a matador, Jose Andres has been performing his skills in kitchens where an audience judges him according to his skill, grace, and daring. If it is daring you want to consider, Andres has been a main player in the success of several Washington, DC restaurants – Cafe Atlantico, Jaleo, Zaytina, and Oyamel. And the James Beard Foundation was honoring him with a nomination for Outstanding Chef for his  work at his signature cuisine restaurant minibar by jose andres. His competition was formidable: Grant Achatz/Alines, Chicago; Dan Barber/Blue Hill, NYC; Suzanne Goin/Lucques, Los Angeles; and Frank Stitt/Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, AL. (For a fuller report on the Awards Show, see end of this story.)

How did Jose Arrive at this Pinnacle?

José Ramón Andrés Puerta (b. 1969, Mieres, Asturias, Spain),  is a Spanish chef often credited for bringing the small-plates concept to America. Early in his career, he trained under Ferran Adria at the famous El Bulli restaurant in Spain. Since 2005, Andrés has produced and hosted “Vamos a cocinar,” a popular food program on Television Española (TVE) Spanish national television.

In May 2007, Andrés began filming José Made in Spain, a 26 part series for public television. Produced by Full Plate Media and sponsored by KQED-TV San Francisco, the series began airing in January 2008. A companion book was published by Clarkson Potter in November 2008.

On the other side of the country, Andrés and his partners’ company, THINKfoodGROUP own several restaurants here in Washington, D.C.:

Cafe Atlantico: an elegant and eclectic restaurant whose cooking is rooted in the Nuevo Latino style.

Jaleo: an award-winning restaurant named after the famous John Singer Sargent painting and serving traditional Spanish tapas. Three locations in the metro area Washington, DC, Bethesda, MD and Arlington, VA.

Zaytinya: which serves mezze, the small plates of the Greece, Turkey and Lebanon. The name means olive oil in Turkish.

Oyamel: authentic Mexican tacos and antojitos, margaritas with salt air. Reopened in Penn Quarter in February 2007. Originally located in the Crystal City neighborhood.

minibar by josé andrés: Andrés’ signature cuisine in a small space. $120, 30-35 small courses, six diners, three chefs, two seatings a night.

In developing his menu for Oyamel, Andres met with acclaimed Mexican-food expert Diana Kennedy.

Andrés released his first cookbook in 2005. First published in English as Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America (published in the United States by Clarkson Potter) and shortly after in Spanish, Los fogones de José Andrés (published by Planeta). The book is an homage to Spanish cooking and to tapas, Spain’s gift to the world of good cooking. The book has been well received by the public in Spain and the US selling over 100K copies in Spain. A second book based on his popular cooking show “Vamos a cocinar” was published by Planeta in Spain in May of 2007.

In April of 2007 he bested chef Bobby Flay, winning ‘Battle Goat’ on Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

In 2006, Andrés was named Chef of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW). In 2005, Food Arts magazine awarded him their prestigious Silver Spoon award saying “the irrepressibly energetic chef José Andrés, the best thing to happen to Spain in North America since 1492.” Bon Appetit magazine named Andrés Chef of the Year in the fall of 2004 and Food & Wine included Andrés in their 35 under 35 Tastemakers list for 2004. Saveur included Andrés on their 2004 Saveur 100 list, noting that he “represents the broad spectrum of Spanish (and Hispanic) cooking from ancient traditions to the fantasies reminiscent of El Bulli, where he once worked, better than anyone else in America today.” In 2003, Andrés won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef of the Mid-Atlantic Region.

He resides in Washington with his wife Patricia and three daughters.

Be sure to check out José Andrés’ new cooking series for PBS, Made in Spain. Saturdays at 12:30pm on Washington’s WETA. Check your local PBS station to find when it’s showing in your area.