This afternoon, Washington Post Live hosted a discussion between José Andrés and the paper's own critic Tom Sietsema as part of a four-day summit on innovation. There were a lot of highlights in this one. First of all, the anonymous critic appeared onstage in a disguise of a toupee and sunglasses because you're not truly anonymous until you are being livestreamed across America. Also, José Andrés revealed a lot of little details about his plans for Minibar, Jaleo, his food truck Pepe and — best of all — a plan to open a culinary school for American chefs to learn Spanish cooking in the window of "five to 10 years." Here now, the highlights.
1) Andrés revealed plans in the works to help jumpstart the Spanish economy with a culinary school, perhaps in the next five or 10 years: "I'm thinking about doing a school that will train American cooks in Spanish cooking. 13 weeks. Then they will go to Spain, they will learn Spanish ways. Then they will work in traditional restaurants. Then they will come back to America. In ten years we will graduate between 10,000 and 20,000 people. Of those 10 and 20 thousand people, maybe two, three or four thousand open a Spanish restaurant."
2) Andrés kindly provided an update on the status of his soon-to-launch food truck Pepe, saying that it will open "in the next week or two."
3) The Think Food Group is also apparently working on opening a new office in three months time. Andrés says the new digs are based on General McChrystal's office with a U shape, a big communications center and a big television panel with lots of touchscreens "like you see on CNN."
4) On what the menu might look like after Minibar's revamp, which seems to be coming soon: "One of the dishes we're going to be doing with the new Minibar when it opens is going to be the potato chip that you don't eat, but the potato chip that you will listen to."
5) Though it hasn't yet shuttered for its long-planned renovations, Andrés said that the downtown Jaleo location is "reopening in four weeks" and will have a dish served in a "shoe" that they've developed that is clear with multicolored laces.
6) On the Think Food Group's future explosion: "I've put a lot of money on resources over the last five or six years to build a management team that will allow me to start opening businesses right and left."
7) Some critic-restaurateur banter: Andrés: "I'm really freaking out — sorry for the wording — of having the food critic next to me." Sietsema: "I'm freaking out in the witness protection program."
8) Andrés on why he opens a restaurant: "I have a story to tell. I don't paint. I don't sing. But I cook. I spread myself and that story through the restaurant."
9) On why it doesn't matter that he doesn't spend more time in each one of his restaurants: "You don't have the CEO of General Motors putting every piece in the car. I understand food is something more personal, but we need to understand I have people working with me that are ten times more talented than I am."
10) Potatoes came up a lot during this talk about innovation sponsored by General Electric, prompting Andrés to declare: "General Electric should get on the potatoes because there is money to be made, people of America."
11) On teaching at Harvard: "Don't tell me how, but the last two or three years we've been teaching at Harvard, at the School of Physics. I believe that because no one understands our accents, that's why they think we know what we're talking about."
12) Andrés showed a video of a project his team has been working on in which a flower made of water and gelatin uses surface tension to extract a drop of water from a glass. This got zero reaction from the audience: "I cannot believe you didn't saw 'ahhh.' Two years and a half of this in the making! You're going to tell me, 'And what are you going to do with this, José?' I don't know."
13) On innovation: "Food companies have bene able to manage to create processed foods that you can put in the middle of the Mall for one year and a year later that food will not go bad. Between you and me, this is brilliant."
14) On his dislike of a "flat" dinner table: "We eat in a flat table every day of our lives. It is boring, people. The Romans were much more fun than us. They would lay down and do other things. We are becoming too obvious."
15) On the innovations borne of tapas: "I still have very traditional people — not necessarily that, I mean Republicans — who will say, 'I want my plate. I don't want to share.' And I always tell everyone the rule of the 15 inches. If you want to enjoy tapas and the Spanish way of eating, you put the plate in the middle of the table. If you don't care about the Spanish way of eating and you want only to enjoy a good Spanish dish, you move the plate 15 inches in and you put it in front of you. This is a simple innovation."
UPDATE: Apologies, in a rush while transcribing this last bit, we missed a piece that reads: " "I still have very traditional people — not necessarily with that I mean Republicans — who will say, 'I want my plate. I don't want to share.'"