Aug 10, 2022 - Food and Drink

José Andrés lets loose, slings sangria

Photo of two people taking a selfie.
Monica and chef José Andrés at his Jaleo restaurant in downtown Chicago this summer. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

👋 Hey, it's Monica. Earlier this summer, I met up with chef José Andrés at his River North Jaleo restaurant before he hosted a Capital One cooking demonstration.

Why it matters: The Spanish-born chef and subject of Ron Howard's new "We Feed People" documentary is better known for bringing food to crisis zones with his World Central Kitchen than for having fun.

  • So it was nice to see Andrés engage in some levity as he whipped up sangria for his guests.

What he's saying: "In Spain, we say sangria is what you give to the tourists … especially the British," he laughed as he chopped strawberries for the drink. "But really it's just like any other cocktail: If you use good s---, you get a good drink."

Photo of a man behind the bar holding a bottle of wine.
José Andrés demonstrates sangria making. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

The intrigue: Andrés started his restaurant empire with Jaleo in Washington, D.C., in 1993 but revealed to the crowd that he almost skipped that location to open a tapas bar in Chicago with Rich Melman and Gabino Sotelino.

  • After a tip from chef Rick Bayless last year about River North vacancies, Andrés finally put down stakes in Chicago with four local restaurants: Jaleo, Bazaar Meat, Bar Mar and Pigtail.

Quick take: I recently ate the most umami-packed bite of my life at Bar Mar on Wacker.

  • Called José's Asian Tacos, they feature caviar and bellota ham wrapped in a square of seaweed nori ($14 for two).
Photo of a tacos on a table.
José's Asian Tacos at Bar Mar. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

What he's saying: The chef was in town mostly to promote an interesting new partnership with Capital One in which he curates dining experiences — like the sangria cooking demonstration — for card members at restaurants all over the country.

  • "If this is something that can get people to start celebrating our cities and our lives again, then it's worth supporting," he said, noting continuing struggles in the hospitality community.
  • "When I visited Chicago [to distribute food to frontline workers] during the middle of the pandemic, it was so sad to see everything so empty. I love to see so many more people out now and I want to help that."
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