Immigrant, Mentor, Keeper and Breaker of Tradition: José Andrés

By Caroline Hatchett

By

Caroline Hatchett
José Andrés was on message as political activist and immigrant advocate at the StarChefs Congress.
José Andrés was on message as political activist and immigrant advocate at the StarChefs Congress.

“There is no shame in telling people where you came from,” said Chef José Andrés, booming from the main stage of the 12th Annual StarChefs International Chefs Congress. In the moment, Andrés was referring to his tenure working for Ferran and Albert Adrià at elBulli. But in context, wearing an “I am an immigrant” t-shirt and only a day removed from recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, Andrés was on message as political activist and immigrant advocate.
 
Andrés was joined by ThinkFoodGroup’s Rubén García and Aitor Lozano, who followed Andrés from elBulli to America. “I came sailing into New York Harbor and saw the Statue of Liberty,” said Andrés. “I always wanted to be an American and fell in love with the melting pot that we are.”
 
Andrés and ThinkFoodGroup have since contributed to that melting pot, bringing Spanish traditions, molecular gastronomy, and masterful whimsy to diners across the country. For their demo, book-ended by vintage photos of the elBulli crew, Lozano shared a modernist take on pan con tomate—made of a torched flourless tomato water meringue, Spanish olive oil, house tomato paste, and tomato seeds. Lozano will debut the dish at his forthcoming L.A. restaurant, Somi. García took it back old school, rubbing fresh tomato over toasted Spanish bread. “Searching our traditional DNA allows us to know that what we are doing—our experimentation—is successful. It's hard work, people. Learn the traditions.”
 
Andrés and co., along with the Adrià brothers, are partnering to share those Spanish traditions in a project slated to open in late 2018. They're bringing Little Spain food hall, with a market space and multiple restaurants, to New York City's Hudson Yards. For Andrés, it's full circle, collaborating with the men who launched his career. And if he walks to the water's edge, he might even be able to spy Lady Liberty. 

 

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