miami | Drink + Dine

Chef José Andrés Dishes On His Secrets to Paella and SOBEWFF

February 24, 2016
Written by: Lil Newman
Editorial Manager, Marketing Manager

Ultimate foodies and South Beach fanatics unite this week for the SOBE Food & Wine Festival beginning tomorrow, February 24th. From tastings, cooking seminars, intimate dinners, brunches and lunches, there are plenty of events and amazing opportunities to dig in all week and weekend long.

James Beard Award-winning Chef and sbe culinary partner, José Andrés, is hosting his 2nd Annual Paella & Tapas by the Pool party at SLS South Beach Thursday, 25th. To celebrate this sold out event, we chatted with Chef José Andrés himself about his tips and tricks for making his famous paella, what makes a great restaurant and a recipe that changed his life!

Check it out below and we hope to see you there!

What is the key to making amazing paella?

I learned the secret to the perfect paella when I was just a small boy. My father would host Sunday cookouts in our house in Mieres, Spain, and he always made a giant paella for our visitors. I wanted to help him cook, but I was not allowed—instead, my father told me to collect firewood and tend to the fire. One day, my frustration got the best of me, and I got angry in front of all the visitors. My father didn’t pay attention to my outburst. That night, he took me aside, and he taught me a lesson I remember every day. With cooking a paella, or anything for that matter, the fire is the most important part. The fire is the foundation. You must control it, or there will be nothing, not even if you begin with the finest of ingredients. I realized that all along, my father had been teaching me to appreciate the fundamentals. I have tried to pass this lesson on to the contestants on Top Chef—by challenging them to control the fire while using clean cookstoves! When you are making a paella at home, try doing it outside over an open fire, or even on your grill. If you’ve mastered the fire, you’ve mastered the paella.

 I’ll give you one more tip. When you add the rice to the paella, just stir at the beginning, and then don’t touch the rice, people!! If you stir the rice too much, you will disturb the soccarat, which is that beautiful golden brown crust that forms on the bottom of the paella. During the last few minutes of cooking, you should hear the crackling of the rice at the bottom of the pan. The paella will be talking to you! And that’s when you’ll know that the rice is beginning to caramelize and is creating the soccarat!

What are you looking forward to most about SoBe Food & Wine?

I am looking forward to the energy. South Beach is such an incredible place because it is filled with so much amazing energy. I love to cook for a happy crowd, especially if it’s paella!

 What makes a great restaurant?

It’s not only the food that makes a great restaurant. It’s the spirit of the place, the people who work there, and the story that the food tells you once you step inside.

 You’ve won countless awards and praise in your career thus far. What is something you still hope to accomplish?

My team and I have fed many people. But what I hope is that one day we will be able to feed a million people in one day. With World Central Kitchen, we are creating smart solutions aimed at feeding the many. And last year, we opened Beefsteak, our first fast-casual restaurant, in hopes to achieve that. Beefsteak is about beautiful, sexy vegetables, and it is our contribution to an important question—why can’t chefs have a say in how our country feeds its people? 

 How do you see the future of fine dining?

I see the line between fine dining and the rest of the food industry beginning to blur and the future of fine dining becoming intertwined with a bigger effort that we are all talking about: how we are going to feed our planet. More and more chefs are launching fast-casual concepts, including myself, with Beefsteak, in hopes to change the way America is eating for the better. And this applies to fine dining, too, because we will start to think more about how we can apply what we are learning in our restaurants, things like food costs and cutting down on food waste, to the world outside our kitchen walls.

 Is there any one recipe that changed your life or approach to cooking?

I will never forget the first day that my friend Ferran Adrià tried to make his famous liquid croquetas. It was 1988, and it was my first year in the kitchen at elBulli. I was at the fry station, handling a pot of very hot oil. Ferran was tasting an almond gelatin at a nearby station. And then, he had an idea. It was one of those looks he gave me- a look that I could feel deep inside myself. I knew what he was going to do next. He took his spoon of gelatin, and he tossed it into the oil. And as you may have guessed, it didn’t work. Cold water and hot oil, they do not mix well. But that day, I learned that cooking can be something more: to think, to test, to push the boundaries. As Ferran said to me that day, “If I don’t test it, I won’t know.”