Chef José Andrés comes to conquer L.A. with the Bazaar
JOSÉ ANDRÉS, always charming, is the life of the party at a soiree in the Hollywood Hills, and guests are circling around him next to the infinity pool. Chef Andrés is scooping caviar onto slices of jamón ibérico (ham from the black-footed pigs of Spain), rolling it up and placing it directly into their mouths.

"I'm feeding you one bite at a time," Andrés tells the small crowd. It's a line he uses often. Who knew he meant it literally?


FOR THE RECORD:
Chef Jose Andres: An article in today's Food section about Spanish chef Jose Andres states that "Spain . . . On the Road Again" is a new PBS show; actually, it is distributed by American Public Television. —




FOR THE RECORD:
Recipes: Recipes that accompanied Wednesday's article in the Food section about Spanish chef Jose Andres should have included more information. The Galician lobster and the apple and fennel salad recipes were developed by Andres. The olive oil pancakes were developed by Andres and published in the cookbook "Made in Spain." —



Andrés, bright-blue-eyed and often dressed in an untucked button-down shirt and khakis or jeans, has, with his restaurants, TV show and cookbooks, helped bring a Spanish culinary revolution to the U.S. in the last 15 years -- and he's busier than ever feeding people. Says Sam Nazarian, the host of the party and chief executive of SBE, the company behind Andrés' coming L.A. restaurant: "I've had a harder time chasing José than chasing women."

Already chef-partner of seven restaurants in and around Washington, D.C., Andrés has recently returned from the Canary Islands, where he taped the final episode of the second season of his PBS-aired cooking show, "Made in Spain." His third book, "Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen," hits the shelves in November, the month his L.A. restaurant -- the Bazaar at the new SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills -- is expected to open.

It's an exuberant experiment in dining, located in the public space of the 11,500-square-foot hotel lobby, with several whimsical dining areas: a cocktail bar and raw bar, a space featuring his tapas as well as cured meats and cheeses, a "patisserie" with a display kitchen and a roving "street food" cart. "Who needs one more chef in one more building with four walls and a kitchen?" Andrés asks.

"I'm bored with the system of it. I want people to be able to move around, not feel chained at a table," he says, sitting down to lunch at Gordon Ramsay at the London West Hollywood (he's starting to look uncomfortable squeezed into a circular banquette in the middle of the dining room). "I want energetic, unpretentious, fun."

Diving right in

THOSE ARE the same words that describe Andrés, who often punctuates his sentences with "amiga" or "amigo" and is a bit of a daredevil, a bullfighting fan not afraid to battle a big wave or two for gooseneck barnacles.

He and Nazarian, a nightlife impresario who has successfully marketed the Katsuya chain of slick sushi restaurants (among others), "were meant for each other," says Andrés, whose title is culinary director and partner of SLS Hotels. They have in common unbridled ambition.

The SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills is a reportedly $230-million project, and more hotels are planned for Las Vegas, Miami and beyond. The hotels, the restaurants, the clubs -- all seem to promote what a brand manager might call "the SBE lifestyle."

But Andrés insists the Bazaar, designed by Philippe Starck, "isn't gimmicky." It might be exactly the way people want to eat right now -- a little of this, a little of that, with a lot of entertainment factor.

SBE also is opening XIV in West Hollywood next month, a venue for chef Michael Mina and yet another Starck-designed restaurant -- the theme is a European château.

Andrés, who was born in the Asturias province of Spain and grew up in Barcelona, opened Jaleo tapas restaurant in D.C.'s Penn Quarter in 1993 after stints at a couple of less successful restaurants in New York.

"When I would tell people I work in a tapas place -- I don't know if it was my accent -- they would think topless. . . . Everyone would look at me very weird," he said during an appearance on "Late Show With David Letterman" a couple of years ago. But now "Spanish cooking is very hot and everyone is eating, reading Spanish things." Nobody thinks he's working in a topless place.

Andrés and his partners, under the name ThinkFoodGroup, have two more Jaleo restaurants, Café Atlántico (with a nuevo Latino menu), Oyamel (Mexican) and Zaytinya (eastern Mediterranean), all in the D.C. area.