We interview José Pizarro, the Spanish chef who after 16 years living in London has become one of the greatest ambassadors for the Spanish gastronomy outside Spain. Meet the man who was labelled as ‘crazy’ for cooking with olive oil, when olive oil was more often used as a cleaning product for the ears than as a cooking ingredient.
I arrived to London in 2001, two years later than chef José Pizarro did. Back in the days, the British knew very little about Spanish food. Most people related our gastronomy to badly cooked seafood paellas and sangrias made with cheap wine. It was the food they were eating during their holidays at the all-inclusive resorts in the Costa del Sol.
Back then, some few brave Spanish chefs dared to make it into the United Kingdom and against all the odds, they challenged the perception of our gastronomy. They were tough times but some kept persevering. Today they deserve all our gratitude. Because it is also thanks to them that the Spanish cuisine is one of the world’s most respected gastronomies and an increasing source for cultural and economic wealth in our country.
“When I first came to London, people used to called me crazy for cooking with olive oil”
José Pizarro is the most popular face amongst those few chefs who first came to London from Spain. Today he runs three fantastic restaurants –Pizarro and José in Bermondsey Street plus the newly open José Pizarro in Broadgate Circle– he makes regular appearances in national TV shows such as BBC Saturday Kitchen or Channel 4 Sunday Brunch, he has a couple of cooking books under his belt plus a third one –’Basque: Spanish Recipes from San Sebastian & Beyond’– coming out at the end of this month. After all this time, José has captivated the heart of the British public with his genuine Spanish flare and his ever wonderful food.
Today is a very special day for HolaFoodie. Not only because we interview one of the greatest Spanish chefs working outside Spain but also because José is a good friend of mine and an important part of my London life. First I was his loyal customer, then we became friends, eventually we ended being neighbours and for the last year or so, he is also my ‘boss’… or at least he is once a week when I go to learn from the kitchen of his incredibly talented team at his Pizarro restaurant in Bermondsey Street.
Ladies and gentlemen… Chef José Pizarro!
Get your copy of ‘Basque: Spanish Recipes from San Sebastian & Beyond‘
Massive thanks go to Manu Sainz de los Terreros for the direction of this film interview and all his great help overall.