With a focus on simple, authentic Spanish cuisine, Chef José Pizarro has been at the forefront of bringing both traditional and innovative tapas to London. With three successful restaurants across the city, author of several Spanish cookbooks, and a regular on morning television shows, his career has taken him a long way from his farming background in Extremadura. Today, we’re honored to have Chef Jose sharing his gastronomic passion with Catavino. (Photos by José Pizarro Restaurants)
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José Pizarro’s Top Foodie Tips for Spain
- Visit the Basque Country where food and celebration is a way of life.
- If you want to learn the art of socialization, embrace the Spanish way of life.
- Spain is overflowing with incredible gastronomy, but there are a few culinary gems worthy of seeking out!
- Never restrict yourself to what’s stereotypical. Branch out and eat regional delicacies.
- People are incredibly friendly in Spain! Let the Spanish guide you to the hidden villages with the best food.
- Both in London and in Basque Country, I’ll be serving up unforgettable Spanish food!
1. You’ve been sharing your passion for Spanish food through your various cookbooks for quite some time, yet your book on Basque cuisine has been described as, the food “José wants to eat at home and the way he cooks for family and friends.” Considering you’re from Cáceres, Spain, why has Basque food become your comfort food?
I love the region from which I was born, but there’s just something about the Basque Country that calls me back over and over again. The people, the food and the region are spectacular, unique and feels like a second home. In the Basque Country, food is the most important thing. It’s sharing big plates of food around the table, it’s celebrating happy occasions, it’s a way of life. As much as I love visiting my friends in their Michelin starred kitchens, where I’m always bowled over by their creativity, what I love is simple food, good ingredients sourced locally wherever possible, cooked with little fuss. In my cookbook, I’ve tried my best to not only convey the heartwarming stories that has tied me to the region, but have added my own personal twist to dishes that are uniquely Basque. But don’t rely on my cookbook alone, visit and see for yourself why this region takes very little time to fall in love.
2. On many an occasion, you profess wanting people to feel the Spanish vibe both in your home and in your restaurants. What does that Spanish vibe look like?
Fun, joyful, warm and passionate. The Spanish love to express, to feel to share their creativity and ideas with the world! They are the first to invite you for a glass of wine, a family feast or bed to rest for the night. From impromptu music sessions street-side to all night tapas crawls, the Spanish know how to socialize, celebrate and eat!
3. What small off-the-beat villages would you suggest people go to discover the food, wine and culture of Spain?
Between Bilbao and San Sebastian is the pretty seaside town of Getaria, where you’ll find some of the finest seafood restaurants in the world, including Elkano. For “big game seafood” head to D’Berto in Galicia, renowned for their king crabs, lobsters, groupers and turbot – all simply prepared but excellently cooked. In Sanlucar de Barrameda, the colorful and informal restaurant Casa Bigote serves fried acedias (a type of small sole) and langostinos – among many other unforgettable dishes, which are sourced from local waters. Finally, while you’re in the south, head to Cáceres where you can dine at Atrio – Amazing Michelin Star Restaurant.
4. Spanish food is clearly the cornerstone of your life. What dishes do you feel are often overlooked?
Spain is so much more than Tortilla Española (Spanish Egg and Potato Omelette) and Paella de Marisco (Seafood Paella)! It’s Morcilla de Guadalupe (Black Pudding from Guadalupe), Cocido Madrileño (meat and chickpea-based stew from Madrid), Langostines (king prawns from Sanlucar de Barrameda, Torta del Casar cheese from Extremadura, Fabada Asturiana (Beans stew from Asturias). I would also suggest the various chiringuitos scattered along the seaside. When good, they’re amazing!
5. If there was one culinary tip you would give someone visiting Spain, what would it be?
Talk to people! Anywhere and with anyone, just speak with them. Say hello, ask where to eat, strike up a conversation and engage. Don’t rely solely on books or websites. Or, if you so desire, contact me! I’d love to give you my favorite places to eat, drink and play.
6. Finally, do you have any sites, events, projects, or other cool things you want to plug or share with our audience?
Absolutely! In March, I’ll be in my Basque Country preparing some innovative miniature tapas at the Congress of Miniature in Vitoria-Gazteiz. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you! Additionally in March, come experience Gastronomic Extremadura week in London when all my restaurants will offer menus and tapas that pay homage to my home region.