Gastronomy - Interview: Chef Jose Pizarro (Part 1)

Chef Jose Pizarro © Michelle Chaplow
Celebrity Chef Jose Pizarro.

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Señor SINCERE Guy

No tantrums, no ego, no geezer antics - Jose Pizarro loves cooking, wants his customers to enjoy his food, and is passionate about Spanish products. Charming, modest and easy-going, this chef from Extremadura, southern Spain talks exclusively to andalucia.com about his experiences of living and working in London, his new restaurant, and his plans to open a hotel in Spain.

The first question Jose Pizarro asks me when I meet him in the chic Seville hotel where we’re doing the interview, which has taken much coordination due to his skin-tight schedule, is “Is it too dark here? Would you rather move to another area?” Not many chefs are as considerate as that. What is more, Jose has just spent two hectic days, visiting olive factories near Seville with a group of foreign journalists in his role as the face of Olives of Spain, before sitting down to talk exclusively to andalucia.com.

 

 

“I know about the process, but I’ve never seen it,” he tells me. “It was fascinating. The olive farm was beautiful, it was great weather, the light was wonderful - I cooked for the journalists – a typical Sevillano dish of cod with onions, orange and olives, and lamb with olives and potatoes.”

“I’ve met lots of people while I’ve been here,” says Jose with his trademark enthusiasm. “I’ve done photo shoots. I’ve talked to people from Poland and the Czech Republic, where people are now getting interested in olive oil. In India it is sold as a very healthy product – people go into parks to explain to joggers what it is.” He is interested in every aspect of the product he is promoting.

“I already know Seville,” explains Jose. “I love the Sevillanos, they’re so charming. Last night we went to a tablao [flamenco show) at El Gallo. I liked it very much. The night before that we went to a bar with live music, called Lo Nuestro, in Triana. And then to another bar next door to that.” No early nights for this man on what is essentially a business trip. But then working visits for a Spaniard in his native land are not your average business trip.

“I’m very proud to be Spanish, to show my country to people,” says Jose. “This is my sixth or seventh trip here with journalists this year – I’ve been all over Spain.”

Jose has had more time to visit Spain since he left his three highly successful Brindisa restaurants in London in May, selling out his share to his partners. “I’ve done what I wanted to do,” he states simply. His critically acclaimed flagship locale, Tapas Brindisa in Borough Market, won four stars from Time Out.

“I miss the kitchen,” he laments. “ I miss the cooking hob, I miss the contact with my work colleagues, my customers. I need that stress, that buzz - I think I’m addicted to the kitchen!”

He won’t have to wait too long; the next project, a restaurant and wine bar in the same street of old brick warehouses near Tower Bridge, should be opening in May 2011. “When I went in, I had a feeling – damn, I want this place,” he recalls. It is currently being refurbished, and he is finalising the paperwork. You can see he’s dying to get his teeth into his new restaurant. For the meantime, he is very content to work promoting Spanish products such as olives, and Rioja wines, for which he is also an ambassador. “I am very lucky,” he explains, a sentiment he reiterates throughout our conversation. “I want to make the most of my position to talk about Spain’s wonderful products.”

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