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José Andrés on America Eats, Adrià Working With Pepsi

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How's Aspen treating you so far? Aspen is mistreating me so far. [laughs] Do you want to talk about your new pop-up that you're opening soon? Sometimes life comes this way: I have many concepts that I would like to open over the next few years, and the American restaurant was very much a priority. With America Eats Tavern, the American concept, I got the opportunity to do it quicker than I ever imagined because the National Archives, they were doing the exhibition [Ed: What's Cooking Uncle Sam]. I became the, I don't know the title, culinary adviser to the Archives of the United States. I think it's great that cooking is represented at the Archives. So at the same time that the exhibition was happening, I thought why not do this American restaurant for six months. Before I opened Minibar, we do this kind of homage to America. And it took me one hour to go from no to yes. You know, we put the restaurant together in 120 days.

It opens in two weeks? The Fourth of July, yeah. The idea is to do a historical, chronological American restaurant. American cooking is still trying to find time to develop. Sometimes you go to American restaurants and they say it's American cooking but it's because the chef is American and the ingredients are American. But I'm more interested in what's behind it. So that's what we're doing. We're finding the books where some recipes first show up. That's an important way to establish time. We're asking questions. Why the gooseberry ketchup disappeared, the blackberry ketchup disappeared. Why anchovy ketchup has disappeared. Why the ketchups that are not tomato have disappeared. And why we went from something I believe was really rich to something that is not. I talk about ketchup with respect because it deserves respect...We're going to be asking ourselves what is the Rockefeller oyster and how can we elevate the Rockefeller oyster.

Do you think you're going to do more your interpretations of American food or are you trying to find the actual original recipes? Think about French cooking three hundred years ago, I don't think the palate was any good. Just because something has been like that for 300 years doesn't mean?so sure, it's my interpretation. When does tradition of cooking begin? It begins when someone 300 years ago did something, and that doesn't mean cooks today can't make anything that will be called traditional 300 years from now. It doesn't make any sense but there are people who would argue that. Me I'm like, are you kidding? So someone with no clue did a dish 300 years ago and now it's tradition.

Do you want to talk about why you decided to close Cafe Atlantico? It seems like a lot of people were really upset when it shuttered. It's so funny because we were very busy. We had not one seat left. People made the effort. And you know what it's been so good. We always say restaurants close because of the economy or because the landlord. But really restaurants close because something's going wrong. the restaurant was never busier. And sooner or later it will find a home, because it's a great concept. But we were doing too many things. We did farmers market on Fridays, we did Mini Bar, we closed on Mondays to do research. I want the next place to be more focused.

What are your thoughts on Ferran Adrià working with Pepsi? We need to be very careful this moment. It seems like we are in a war in the food world where we have the Michael Pollans and chefs and farmers and then we have agribusiness and then we have families and then we have the government and the lobbies. We are going into a clash. So when we talk about obesity and we focus on McDonald's it's very unfair. To be obese as a society we cannot put responsibility on one side.

The relationship with Pepsico is great. But I wonder why the relationship between companies like this and top chefs are no happening more often. Because we can create better foods for the masses. We can help. I know people write on the blogs, oh what's wrong with Ferran to partner with a corporation. But this should be happening more. And if it happens more, we'll be eating better tomorrow. I want to be pragmatic. Local is great. We need fresh vegetables and fruits. But it's a very very good relationship.

Would you do a partnership like that? Indirectly I work with scientists and business developers. You can't take away these companies. Working with a company like Mars, I've learned they spend a lot of money on research. We're in a situation of the good and the bad. But it's more complex. Feeding the world will take an effort by many. Sooner or later everyone will need to be changing. You go to Spain and McDonald's has gazpacho on the menu. I'd rather praise that than criticize them for something. So it's a possibility so you'll see me one day working with one of them. Yes, Minibar could be sponsored by a big food company like Google or Oracle. Restaurants like Minibar are so much more than just restaurants or business. Will I do a commercial for McDonald's?

No. I don't think that's the thing for me to do. One of the things I hate the most is those young kids arriving to the NBA and endorsing fast food. the NBA says, "Oh, we are supporting healthy lifestyles and then their superstars are doing McDonald's commercials." In my restaurant I know the calories of every dish. I know my caloric intake. I lost 28 pounds in the last 9 weeks. I realized I can't talk about obesity and look obese myself. It's different issues but in the end there's a certain synergy. We talk about one product and you talk about war, subsidies, and everything else. The complexity of food is what makes it so fascinating.

We have someone — Sam Kass — who is an adviser to Michelle Obama who comes from our industry. But we need all our president to always have good food advisers.

Question from Daniel Boulud: What do you wish for Spanish cuisine to become 20 years from now and what are you going to do yourself in America to make it happen?
Obviously I will hope that Spanish cooking will have the roots that the Italian and French has achieved. I think that it can happen, but we have to be a little more radical in the approach to make it happen. You're going to have to have Spanish culinary schools. None of the chefs I know in Spain want to leave, I guess they have too good of a life. I guess I'll have to train people in China, people in Indian, people in America, how to do it and carry the flag of Spanish cuisine. It's full of traditions but it's also the home of the avant garde. We have the most separations between the traditional and the modern. Which I think is great because one feeds from each other so well.

· All José Andrés Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Aspen 2011 Coverage on Eater [-E-]