Despite its widespread popularity within Europe, tapas have yet to take America by storm although, given the dire warnings by various US health organisations about the destructive effects of the national addiction to fast-food, this is hardly surprising. Small portions of food based on the Mediterranean diet, however, might yet work its magic in the land of Ronald MacDonald thanks to chef José Andrés.
Almost twenty years ago this talented Spaniard opened the phenomenally popular and well regarded Jaleo restaurant in Washington DC and followed this success with the establishment of it’s sister restaurant in Las Vegas’s The Cosmopolitan Hotel. Offering diners a wonderfully evocative taste of Spain, his dazzling shrine to tapas should also provide a welcome haven for homesick valencianos, its Paella Grill containing an open-fire, wood-burning cooking surface that can accommodate four enormous paella pans at a time.
The special “José’s Way” section of the menu is the perfect showcase for this chef’s innovative recipes. Taking a break from the fruit machines or the roulette wheel and blackjack tables, customers can relinquish control of their gastronomic destiny and try José’s gin and tonic oysters or artichoke hearts with a quail’s egg.
Yet Jaleo is far from the only string in José Andrés’s very considerable bow; his influence extends beyond the glittering strips of Las Vegas, where Jaleo’s sibling restaurant, China Poblano, serves the best of Chinese and Mexican street food, deftly demonstrating the culinary traditions shared by East and West.
José was recently presented with the prestigious James Beard Foundation “Outstanding Chef” award at a ceremony held at the beginning of May, which is widely regarded as the gastronomic equivalent of the Oscars. He has also been named “Hot Restaurateur” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, not surprising for a chef whose ever-expanding empire now encompasses Jaleo, China Poblano, Zaytinya, Oyamel, Café Atlantico and the highly praised Minibar by José Andrés in Washington D.C and The Bazaar by José Andrés in the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Such is the skill of this outstanding chef that he has contributed to a course entitled “Science & Cooking” at Harvard University, which aims to advance kitchen science, while he has even been invited by the US Secretary of Commerce to serve on the Travel & Tourism Advisory Board.
In his spare time – of which he has increasingly little – José serves as Chairman Emeritus of DC Central Kitchen, a concept aimed at combating hunger and creating employment opportunities through kitchen training.
In 2009 GQ named José Andrés a man of the year in its influential annual list, yet it is in the kitchen that this proud Spaniard is most at home, introducing Americans to the joys of Spanish cooking and providing displaced Spanish visitors with a welcome taste of home.