Dentistry or food? Yes, believe it or not, Spanish chef, José Pizarro considered both career paths, but thankfully his love of food was just too strong and he had no choice but to leave his passion for dentistry at the kitchen door.
Originally from a beautiful village, Talaván in Cáceres, Extremadura, José has now lived in London for over 18 years, and is often described as the Godfather of Spanish cooking in the UK. José spent his early years here working at some of London’s most prestigious Spanish restaurants including Eyre Brothers, Brindisa and Gaudi. In 2011, José opened his first solo venture, José Tapas Bar on Bermondsey Street. José Tapas Bar is small and cosy venue, inspired by the bustling tapas bars of Barcelona. The daily menu depends on what looks good at the market on the day and it also serves an array of delicious Spanish sherries to compliment the dishes. Jose has since gone on to open two further restaurants in the Capital: Pizarro, just a few yards from José Tapas, and José Pizarro at Broadgate Circle. Jose also opened a ‘pop-up’ restaurant Little Jose in 2017 in Canary Wharf serving tapas and gintonicas!
José believes that tapas is for all, and that home cooks don’t have to be scared off by the idea of cooking lots of dishes – it’s all in the prep and keeping it simple. This mantra of simplicity along with José’s charm, enthusiasm and passion for Spanish food has led to José appearing on many of our favourite foodie TV programmes. A regular on BBC 1’s Saturday Kitchen, José has also appeared on Sunday Brunch, Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose, Rick Stein’s Christmas and Food Network’s The Big Eat. Most recently he was part of the debut series of The Wine Show, where he championed two of his favourite things, sherry and clams!
José’s talents don’t end there though – his first two books, Seasonal Spanish Food (Kyle Books, 2009) and Spanish Flavours (Kyle Books, 2012) launched to great critical acclaim. His latest book, Basque (Hardie Grant, 2016), has been his most exciting work to date. A marvellous journey showing off the amazing food of this region, it’s a feast for the eyes as well as the senses! In 2017, Basque was nominated for the Food and Travel Awards ‘Book of the Year’. His 4th book is Catalonia which is out in October 2017.
In 2014, José was voted one of ‘100 Españoles’ – a hugely prestigious award which showcases the top 100 Spaniards around the world, based on how they have brought their talents to the masses and how they have shown their Spanish pride and love of the country through their work. José loves nothing more than flying the flag for his homeland, so this award was particularly close to his heart as well as Extremeños de Hoy and awards of Gatronomy 2017 by El Periódico and Extremadura Turismo.
José is a regular on the food festival scene, and was most recently found at the stoves at some of UK’s favourite events, including The Big Feastival, Taste of London, Meatopia, Aldeburgh & Padstow. His stage demonstrations are full of gorgeous anecdotes of growing up in Spain, how his Mum wouldn’t let him near the kitchen and his experiences of being a Spanish chef in London.