Jose Andrés is not just the most renowned Spanish chef in the United States; he arguably is the most prominent Spanish immigrant, period.
The chef/author/TV star has been a nonstop force in the food and humanitarian worlds, landing him a spot in Time magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People” and being named an Outstanding American by Choice by President Barack Obama. He also has been honored as an “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation.
Besides owning restaurants in Washington, Miami, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Mexico City, Andrés started World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that uses the power of food to provide smart solutions to hunger and poverty.
Amidst all the honors and accolades, Andrés never has forgotten his roots. He was born in Mieres, northern Spain and trained under Ferran Adrià at El Bulli before spearheading the tapas movement in North America.
Andrés took time out of his insanely busy schedule to answer a few questions for the Spanish Wine Lover:
Was wine part of your family dinners when you were growing up? If so, how did that influence you?
Of course! Wine is a big part of Spanish culture, along with food – I learned at a very young age that the two work together to create a beautiful meal.
You are a great advocate of Spanish food products in America. How does wine play into these efforts?
To me, there is nothing better than complementing a great Spanish meal with a bold Spanish wine. When people come to my restaurants, I want to tell them a story and take them on a journey they haven’t been on before. I want them to taste new things, maybe Spanish wine, paired in ways they might not have done themselves.
Many chefs show little interest in wine. How important is it to have the chef involved with the wine program?
Pairing wine with a good dish only makes it better. On my team, we bring chefs and sommeliers together to create these moments. I am so lucky to work with Andy Myers, a Master Sommelier who is also our Wine Director and as passionate about pairing wine with food as I am. When the food and wine are working together, that is when we have success, like a beautiful symphony.
Do your Spanish restaurants have regional pairings (Bierzo, Rias Baixas), or is it mostly just about Spanish wine and Spanish food?
During certain seasons, we highlight regional pairings when we can. Otherwise, we are constantly celebrating the exciting diversity of Spanish wines.
Your former associate and sommelier Lucas Payá has said that “Wine lists are excellent tools to convey the essence of a restaurant.” Do you agree?
Our wine lists are absolutely an expression of our restaurants. At my restaurants, we try to create experiences that transport you to another place. A great example is Zaytinya [in Washington, D.C.]. Our team worked to bring a wide variety of Greek, Lebanese, and Turkish wines to complete the experience and complement the dishes perfectly.
You are a big believer in authenticity with your food. Do you have the same approach to wine, that it must reflect where it came from rather than be generic?
Yes! I tell stories through food, and that goes for wine as well. My team and I work to make a selection of wines that will take our guests on a journey. Sometimes that means sourcing wines from the same region as the food. Other times, that may mean pairing wine from a completely different region or country. We try not to limit ourselves, just to always create a unique and exciting pairing.
In your experience, is it hard to convince Americans to drink Spanish wine?
Come on, Spanish wine is inviting! I find that guests at my restaurants are adventurous and ready to try new things. Andy is so talented at finding ways to introduce Spanish wine to everyone.
Do you enjoy wine on a regular basis? If so, which are your favorite styles of Spanish wine?
To me, there is nothing better than enjoying a meal with a glass of wine. It's tough to choose, but I would say I enjoy most of the wines from Priorat.