In this Q&A with José Andrés, the award-winning chef tells us about the surprising kitchen tool he uses constantly and describes a perfect day of eating in D.C.
José Andrés had a busy year. He celebrated the opening of China Chilcano, a Chinese-Peruvian spot in Washington, D.C.’s Penn Quarter, and the launch of his new fast-casual, vegetable-focused concept, Beefsteak (named for the tomato variety), which has already opened a second location in Dupont Circle, with plans to expand to Philadelphia. All this followed an even more hectic 2014, when the D.C.-based chef debuted two establishments in the SLS Las Vegas: Bazaar Meat and Ku Noodle. He also hosted a PBS special called Undiscovered Haiti, in which he explores the island’s cuisine as a way of learning about its culture. Somehow, Andres found time to answer a few of our questions:
Favorite ingredient to cook with and why:
I love cooking with truffles when they’re in season. They’re incredible in just about anything, from pasta and eggs to a simple piece of toasted bread with butter.
One rule you learned in cooking school that every home cook should know:
Cooking should be structured. Culinary school taught me how to be organized and to clean as I go. These are the skills that will help you succeed and create systems to make your kitchen efficient.
One rule you learned in culinary school that every home cook should ignore:
At the same time, you need to go out, experience, learn, and be a student of life. Sometimes doing things by the book isn’t the best way. You need to learn to solve problems creatively.
Kitchen tool you can't live without:
Chopsticks! They are not only incredibly useful, but they are also absurdly inexpensive. I use them to toss salads, whisk eggs, grill meats, you name it. You can also use them as tweezers to plate fresh greens and herbs and add a level of sophistication to your plating.
Secret weapon spice/ingredient/technique:
Cooking á la plancha. The term simply means cooking on a hot, flat surface, and it is the perfect way to cook for a group of people. You can cook anything á la plancha, from vegetables to all kinds of meat and seafood. You can even do grilled cheese sandwiches or oysters on the half shell. If there is one technique everyone should know, it’s this one.
Favorite dish to cook at home:
I love cooking with whatever is growing in my garden. My daughters and I often start with a bowl of grains like quinoa or couscous and play around with different vegetables, sauces, and other toppings. It may sound simple, but it allows us to be creative with whatever we’ve grown with our own hands.
Perfect day of eating in your city:
My perfect day of eating is when I cook with my family at home. Our kitchen is the heart of our house. On Sundays, I love going to the FreshFarm Market in Dupont Circle with my wife and daughters to choose our ingredients for the week, or just find something new or perfectly in season to take home and have fun with. I never leave the market without stopping by Red Zebra and enjoying one of their incredible wood-fired pizzas.