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José Andrés on Celeb Chefs, Obesity, Sex, Politics, Miami

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When we heard José Andrés was in town working on getting Bazaar Miami ready for a hopeful May opening, we stalked him--er, managed to finagle a fantastic sit down interview with our photog Rolando Diaz, who got the chef going on all sorts of subjects.


[Images & Video: Rolando Diaz]
What drives you?
What drives me is always searching for new things. I enjoy myself a lot in trying to do new things. I don’t like the comfort zone. Sometimes I miss being in the comfort zone, but I get too bored if I’m in the comfort zone. So I like to always be trying new things. I really believe that it’s the role of every human being. That’s the idea that I have. Whether it’s one person who is listening to you, or a million people. I think everyone is in the business of trying to influence others and trying to make others around you better. it doesn't matter the scope of people you reach. I think if we all try to make the person next to us better, we are all better as a nation. I believe in that deeply and I try to live by those standards, even though sometimes I feel I fall short.

What's your take on the explosion of celebrity chefs?
There’s a lot of people doing this and I’m very happy. Actually, not only those with my profession as a chef, we have other great role models that are really pushing. Their knowledge, expertise and sometimes fame make them an agent of change. I love that not only those with my profession as a chef, but writers, journalists, and sommeliers, try to use our influence or our connection with people because we connect with people instantly through food. It’s good that we try to entertain for our restaurants , we try to feed for our restaurant, but we are becoming the “Trojan Horse” of the food/political warfare. Through our menus, we can be changing in the way people understand certain fish that maybe are disappearing. Through the right practices, we can be helping the environment by, not necessarily buying more local products because I’m not a local flag type of chef myself. I buy as much local products as I can, but I also bring champagne from France or ham from Spain.

Your thoughts on obesity?
Some would say that the role to fight obesity should be the doctors. Well, I don’t agree. In the first place, people should not become obese, they should not get sick. So the doctors are the ones finding the solution. We are the fault for what people eat. We can be helping in the years to come to fight obesity. Slowly but surely, we are putting pressure on ourselves, to big companies, and to the government. We are finding the right system where everyone can still be happy and everyone can make money. My profession is in the heart of many things and I’m very happy.

What took you so long to get down here?
Well, I came to Miami, to Espanola Way. Even though a lot of people don’t know it, it was a very short project. We opened Cafe Atlantico in Espanola Way in 1995. My partners owned a cafe, and they wanted to open a new one. I helped open the place, but I only came for a few days here. For different reasons, the restaurant didn’t make it. Maybe it was too early for Espanola Way, But I was here already, but life is for a reason. It has been a lot of learning. That wasn’t totally a lead project by me. I helped design the menu, but I was never here. Yes,It’s only the beginning. I came back and I learned from my mistakes. As Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” So it’s the beginning. I think this is going to be a great project. I’m not only doing the restaurant, but the food and beverage at the hotel too. For me, SLS is my home. I think SLS is great. We are good friends. The people doing this, Sam Nazarian, the crazy missionary behind the idea of the hotel in the first place was able to bring Philip and I. The three of us have done an amazing team effort to create a very nice hotel where people enjoy themselves.

So when can we eat?
“Well, we are going to start slowly for different reasons. Around May, people should be able to enjoy Bazaar. But I know there are a lot of expectations. I always say that I’m in the business of managing those expectations more and more, and meeting up to those expectations. I’ll do my best. There’s going to be good food. I think it’s going to be a fine experience.

How’s the menu looking?
I believe every city deserves a homage of where you are. I don’t like to copycat my own concepts. I don’t think it would be fair for Miami if I bring the reputation of an existing restaurant. You will be seeing more Latin flair in Miami. What this concept is going to have that is going to be very unique is we are going to two or three Singapore touches to honor the Art Deco that unites Miami with Singapore. So there is going to be a little touch of Asian flair, but it is going to still be very Latin.”

What, if any, are going to be the differences between Bazaar in LA and the one in Miami?
This is going to be like Bazaar. People come twice or three times a weeks sometimes. It is very elegant, but it is also very casual. That’s the amazing thing with the small plates and the tapas, everyone comes and they all feel comfortable.”

What's the deal with Pepe, your food truck, and will we see him--er, it, down here?
“Well, Pepe was two reasons why I wanted to do a food truck. First, we are opening a food truck here in Miami. I don’t know if it is going to be the first ever food truck in a swimming pool in America, in the world, maybe. So that’s why I need Pepe, to be learning how food trucks work so I can be prepared for Miami. Second, for me it’s a toy. I think chefs can have toys, and that’s a toy for me. I can’t wait to see what we can do here. It is a real food truck to serve the pool. You can move it in and out, so it is a crazy idea.
Sure! We’ll bring Pepe for the opening of SLS and we’ll park it right in front. It’s a long road from Piccadilly, but we’ll bring it.

It's so cliche, but give us a José Andrés analogy on food and sex
You could say so. I think a Philly Cheesesteak is the closest thing of comparing food to great sex. For example, I’m not going to do a Philly Cheesesteak here, but we are going to do the Cubano sandwich version of it.

We love controversy. Talk to us about, say, uh, politics...
Politics? Why are you asking me this? Is it because Rush Limbaugh killed me the other day? Well, I’ve spent 23 years in America. D.C. has had a big influence on me. In the last years I’ve served for the office of Latin Affairs for the city of Washington, D.C. for the mayor. I’ve been on the adversary board for the Secretary of Commerce and Agriculture on how to improve tourism in America. I was active on that for a couple of years. I’ve been in the congress to raise awareness of certain issues to other groups of chefs. I supported the First Lady on the event where she conveyed more than a thousand chefs in the White House for the first time in history. So I like politics. In certain things I leaning more right and in certain things I leaning more left. That’s how it should be. It should not be black or white. Sometimes I have a feeling that we make things black and white. I think things are a mix of both. One day, I like politics, but I like it in the sense of making things happen for the people. So one day, I’m 42 now. One day. [EaterWire]

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