In an interview published on February 1 in the Spanish economic newspaper and website Cinco Días, reporter Paz Álvarez asks chef José Andrés if he would ever open a restaurant in Spain. "If I returned to Spain," he replies, "it would be to do something very big, or very special. Today, for instance, there's much controversy over the hotel El Almoraima, in a 17th-century convent on state-owned property in Cádiz, which the government intends to sell, over the objections of the Andalusians. It's an amazing place, where I spent the first night of my honeymoon, and I'd like to help there. Or else to become culinary director of the Paradors of Spain [state-run luxury hotels]."
When asked if he considers himself more of an entrepreneur or a chef, Andrés replies that he's more of the latter. "What has happened," he says, "is that chefs have come out of the dungeon and now we are important, but at the same time that we are pay attention to our kitchens, we must also pay attention to our business. Paul Bocuse or Michel Bras were cooks but also entrepreneurs. You have to control your own destiny. I feel, even though I've had 29 years in the kitchen and 21 years in the U.S., that I'm at kilometer zero in my profession. Now is when I can start doing things right."
Can haute cuisine ever be profitable, asks Álvarez. "Very profitable," Andrés replies. "I'm sure that the Roca brothers of El Celler de Can Roca [currently named the world's best restaurant in the San Pellegrino/Restaurant Magazine ranking] are profitable. It's a well-run business. Gastronomy has to be profitable, otherwise it makes no sense."
Evoking the Spanish-based Zara clothing company, the world's largest apparel retailer, Andrés says that we wishes Zara co-founder Amancio Ortega would share with the current generation of chefs his secrets for having turned high fashion into an internationally successful ready-to-wear business. "We need a Zara of tapas," he says."Why isn't there a chain like Pizza Hut for paella or tortillas [Spanish omelets]?
I doubt that Andrés would be happy to see paella or tortillas reinterpreted for the mass market with the same attention to authenticity that Pizza Hut brings to one of Italy's most emblematic culinary specialties, but I know what he means.