I happened to catch a couple of episodes of Made In Spain on PBS over the last few weeks and I have to say, it is exceptionally good for a cooking show whose format has basically been done to death in recent years. It’s the ubiquitious formula where the host takes you on location someplace to show you the local products, people and restaurants, then returns to the kitchen to show you how to make a few dishes. So what makes this show so much better? The host. It’s José Andrés, owner of several restaurants in the D.C. area, known for his inventive Spanish cuisine and being a part of the molecular gastronomy movement (and he’s no wannabe; his resume includes a stint with Ferran Adrià at El Bulli). I have not personally tasted his food (yet) but have been very eager to, now more than ever. The thing about the guy is that he is incredibly passionate for food but is completely unpretentious about it. He jokes and uses funny metaphors to teach what’s going on in the cooking process, and you can just tell by the way he really gets into what he’s doing that despite working with food for so many years, he is still absolutely enchanted by it. He fawns over great ingredients and when he looks at things as simple as a spoonful of paella, he uses words like “fascinating” and “astonishing”, as if perfectly cooked rice were the greatest wonder in the modern world. That’s a foodie if ever I saw one.
I think I first heard of Andrés when I saw an episode of Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything where first he made a killer giant paella, and then he really intrigued me by taking Bittman to his restaurant Minibar where he and his team do their no holds barred cooking for only 6 customers a night (top that, Momofuku Ko! haha). That’s where he showcases much of his wizardry with molecular gastronomy, but only with the goal of achieving the greatest possible eating experience. If something can be made to be original and dazzling with no scientific technique at all, he will go with that too as evidenced by his “tomato caviar”, which is simply the pure unadulterated jiggly deliciousness of the insides of a tomato, the part containing the seeds. Talk about being simply brilliant!
A few months later I happened to catch José Andrés on tv again, this time on an episode of Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie (note to Nari Kye fans: she’s the production manager for that show). In that episode, we get an inside step by step look at how he and his team brainstorm new ideas and bring them to life in their test kitchen. Very cool stuff.
Then there was my trip to Las Vegas this past December. I was in the middle of one of those marathon sessions of blackjack where I only leave the table to use the men’s room, and I only do that when the dealer is shuffling the next shoe. I got up from my table and hurriedly made my way towards the restroom. As I was zipping down the corridor in my haste, who do I almost run right into? Yep, José Andrés. I would have stopped to talk to him except for the fact that I really had to piss and I also wanted to get back to the blackjack table without missing a hand.
Fast forward to last month where I catch an episode of that awesome series on PBS, Chef’s Story, and wouldn’t ya know it, there’s José Andrés again. He gives an awesome interview and then cooks an incredibly simple yet fantastic looking paella. Damn that dish looked so good, it was downright inspirational.
A couple weeks later I caught my first episode of Made In Spain on WLIW HD and was delighted to see that José Andrés finally got his own show! I of course immediately added it to my DVR schedule and pre-ordered the DVD thru Amazon. The program is, wonderfully, just José being José. He travels throughout Spain having a grand ol’ time showing us where the country’s various culinary treasures come from and he does it like a proud papa showing off his children. Then he takes us back to his immaculate kitchen where he cooks with all that enthusiasm and profound adoration of his ingredients. It makes for a really great show.
And last but not least, speaking of great shows, who was that on Iron Chef America last week? You got it. José Andrés was the challenger and he completely whooped “Iron Chef” Bobby Flay’s azz. The judges were totally floored by Andrés’ dishes in what was one of the most lopsided defeats an Iron Chef has ever suffered. I think he smoked Flay by a whopping seven points or so. Good for him. José Andrés is a charismatic, talented chef whose turn in celebrity chefdome was long overdue. I’m glad his time has apparently arrived. Now if only I could score one of those 6 seats at Minibar so I can actually sample his creations. Who’s up for a road trip with me? 🙂