The busy London-based celebrity chef took a break from opening his new tapas restaurant Pizarro and flew over to Jersey to help students of the Academy of Culinary Arts at Highlands launch their brand new student-run tapas bar. It was an initiative organized by Santander Private Banking, and with his passion about using fresh, good quality seasonal produce and simple recipes, José’s infectious enthusiasm couldn’t have come at a better time for the budding chefs. Gallery caught up with the tapas star to talk last suppers, food heroes and razor clam recipes.
Why’s tapas so popular?
It brings the life back into eating out. You have someone in front of you, chatting, you try different food, it’s lively. And if you’re there with boring people and you don’t know what to talk about, you can always talk about the food… ‘lovely prawns!’
What’s the future of cooking?
It’s returning to its roots. It’s coming back to the traditional home-cooked food of 40 years ago. I remember my grandmother preparing partridge, and spending 14 hours to get the flavour right, and caramelizing onions for four hours to get them sweet enough for a potato omelette. It’s all about time. People need to spend more time.
Is it important to learn from the professionals when you’re starting out?
Definitely. When you’re in the first stages, you need to learn and listen. It’s not like before when people tried to keep everything secret, now you share it. And these new chefs, they’re like a sponge. They need to learn about seasonality and using seasonal produce – they’re the future chefs so they can make a difference.
Who would you most like to cook for?
I just love to cook for my friends and my clients, because they’re my friends too. When you’re looking out of the kitchen and you see people smiling, and having a good time, it makes your day.
What would your last supper be?
Sitting in San Sebastian with nice piece of fish on the grill, a nice glass of wine with my friends around.
What’s your favourite flavour?
Pomelo (an Asian citrus fruit), it’s sweet, bitter and acidic all at the same time. Mix it with some salt and you have the four main flavours.
Who’s your food hero?
Juan Mari and Elena Arzak, a father and daughter team. They’re stars but they’re so down to earth.
What’s your favourite dish on your tapas menu?
Razor clams. They’re in season now. Delicious.
Did you know you can catch razor clams here?
Really? You must try them with chorizo, mint and olive oil and you will be in heaven.
Local produce is everything to you isn’t it?
I grew up on my family’s farm, picking tomatoes and carrots, washing them in spring water. These things are still in my memory and then you know what a proper carrot tastes like. You’ve already tried the best ever, and the flavour, the smell is still there.
What’s your main characteristic?
Adrenalin! I need to live in adrenalin. If I don’t worry, I worry because I’m not worrying!