José Andrés, who swept into The Daily Kitchen in a hurricane of creative energy the other night as part of our regular series of celebrity chef events, has big plans for how to feed the world, how to do fast-casual, and exactly how his interpretation of a Philly cheese steak should look in a photograph. Wait, he beckons the photographer, what if we create more light in the shot by holding up this glass of white wine?
To watch the chef work is to see a glimpse of how quickly his mind works. First, does everyone have a cone of bagel and lox with salmon roe? Okay, here’s the beet gazpacho and the Greek pizza.
And then, Andrés moves into his cooking demonstration, a liquid suspension of sea urchin and dashi into a transparent sphere. It might not be so easy to reproduce at home, the chef warns the crowd, but for tonight, enjoy this drop of the ocean.
Of his specialty cocktail, which features delicate salt foam, the chef explains, the idea came after realizing that despite hating the salted rim of a margarita, drinking one without any salt “is like going on a date with yourself.”
When I finally get a moment to speak with Andrés, he’s just finished trying to avoid telling the story of how he saved a man from choking during a recent Washington Wizards game.
He doesn’t want to go into it because he only did what anyone would have done — “but this wouldn’t happen to you with tapas.”
Just weeks ago, Andrés launched Beefsteak, the vegetable-focused — but not exclusive — fast casual restaurant he hopes will spread the joy of good produce to the masses. “We’ll have four by the end of the year in D.C.,” he says. “The next city is gonna be New York, then LA, but first I need to have four successfully in D.C.”
The project is one that is especially close to the chef’s heart as he continues to campaign from the nation’s capital about improving the way that Americans think about and treat the food system. If anything, he hopes his work will encourage people to visit the greenmarket themselves, at least once a week. And please, get rid of kids’ menus.
“I don’t have kids’ menus in my restaurants. I think kids should be eating what their fathers eat. Our kids, we need to be feeding them the best. It can’t be macaroni and cheese every day, or a hotdog with ketchup or a chicken finger. It cannot be that that’s the menu we are feeding our kids, especially in America. We are at the best moment of our history as a powerful country — America needs to be at the forefront of investing in the food we are serving our children.”
The photographer steps in to ask, would he hold a sea urchin and dashi sphere so that she can take a photograph? He grins and holds the translucent bubble directly under his nose — and then it’s back to the interview.
Just one last thing — which fighter is Andrés rooting for on Saturday?
“Pacquiao — I like him,” says Andrés. “I like Mayweather too, but I think Pacquiao is the underdog, and I like underdogs.”