Spanish culinary mastermind José Andrés is more than a chef. He is a creative, a teacher, a philanthropist, TV personality and so much more. Thus, it’s only fitting that the James Beard award-winning toque receives the prestigious title of Honorary Guest at this year’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Tribute Dinner. The celebratory meal is the pinnacle of the week-long event taking over Miami Beach that brings the top global names in the food and wine world together under one roof.
Yes, it seems obvious that a man of this caliber, who has accomplished so much success in the culinary world over the years, would be awarded with this dinner. However, Chef Andrés is somewhat surprised. “It’s an incredible feeling. But in a way, I was at first a little surprised, because I consider myself a millennial—a millennial in the sense that I’m still somewhat new, and not done yet. I don’t think I’ve yet hit the height of my career, but it is a great honor to receive such a prestigious award,” Andrés explains.
Whether the humble chef has met the standards of greatness is certainly under no debate. Let’s recap a bit. The chef and owner of ThinkFoodGroup first started out learning the tricks of the trade in Spain with mentor and close friend Ferran Adrià (to whom he credits much of his success) in 1988, eventually coming to the U.S. and working in the kitchen of El Dorado Petit in New York City in 1991.
From here, Andrés describes his journey as, “walking forward, moving step by step.” To Chef Andrés, he didn’t get where he is today by one big, decisive moment in his career. Rather, his journey started, “simply by walking, and never looking back,” he explains. “My success as a chef has been a slow-building process. Brick by brick, I became better and better, and learned more about the industry.”
Photo Credit: Ryan Forbes
Throughout the next 15-plus years, Andrés worked his way through the industry in D.C., Virginia, Miami, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, until he amassed a strong brand name and nationwide scale of restaurants, each receiving critical acclaim and taking on its own unique theme. However, Andrés attributes much of his success to others. When questioned on one of the first things he learned in the business, he easily states, “I am only as great as the people around me. So, it’s not about only trying to succeed for myself, but to try to help others around me be great as well. That’s the only true way to measure success.”
While Andrés has become a household name around the world, we’d like to focus in on Miami. Chef Andrés left his mark on the city when joining forces with sbe Entertainment Group’s Sam Nazarian and renowned designer Philippe Starck to open the SLS South Beach, upon which his signature Bazaar South Beach restaurant and Bar Centro hot spots were created. The Bazaar South Beach, which was the chef’s second Bazaar restaurant following Los Angeles, showcases the chef’s Spanish background, debuting an authentic Spanish tapas-style menu with a heavy Latin influence.
The interior design is magical, with playful elements that take the restaurant both inside and out, highlighted by warm contrasts of white, red and gray as well as dramatic chandelier lighting dangling from the ceilings. In typical Andrés style, he also adds a personal touch to the room with a large Spanish bull’s head, a masterpiece created by his close friend. The small plates are just as playful as the décor, as Andrés uses his expertise in culinary physics to bring an entirely artistic experience to the plate.
Photo Credit: sbe
After the huge success of his first Bazaar South Beach outpost, it was only natural that Andrés would open a second in the culturally rich city—this time, bringing the ocean to land with Bazaar Mar, the chef’s first seafood restaurant. While both venues have the same signature small and inventive plates, their menus and restaurant designs are very different from one another.
“For me, it would be easier to make the same Bazaar everywhere, but I realized that I was correct in choosing to make each one different because that’s what Bazaar is. You never know what to expect,” he explains. “My team and I have been able to keep a very good thing going, and we have a very good melody for what Bazaar is. My restaurants are like Star Wars to me—they each have the same feeling and the same storyline, but each one is different from the other. We have just the right amount of eclectic, tradition and modernity in a very comfortable environment.”
While the original Bazaar South Beach is known for its dark and sexy interior, Bazaar Mar contrasts the look of the original spot with a stark white and blue sea theme. The eye-catching, hand-painted blue and white tiles adorning the walls are one of the most extraordinary design elements of the restaurant, which also came from a friend of Andrés’ that he incorporated into the space. Additionally, the sleek design of the restaurant features a popping fish head with horns, paying homage to the restaurant’s theme.
On transitioning to a sea-based menu, Andrés is delighted. “Bazaar Mar is fish my way, meaning seafood in a very Spanish and Latin style. I am a big seafood guy, so it was great to be able to create this new menu,” he says. Although he can’t choose favorites, he predicts that the hard shells of the ocean, including the oysters, clams and other bivalves, will remain the big hits and lead to a growth in popularity for the future of seafood.
The people of Miami seem to agree. Now, with two of Miami’s most popular restaurants open for business, we hope to see more of the chef around, and he is very fond of the city. “My team and I were welcomed by the people of Miami with open arms, and I am super-proud to see the love we have been receiving,” he says. “Although I am not there all the time, every time I return to the city it feels like home.”