The chef and restaurateur takes us on the ultimate guided food tour.

By Nilou Motamed
Updated August 17, 2017
La Granja
Credit: John Huba

"We must go to Andalucía!" came a booming voice over my phone late one night. "And we can’t forget the yin-tonics!"

So began the happy journey of creating this special Spain issue with our guest editor, José Andrés: chef, restaurateur, raconteur, provocateur, gin and tonic connoisseur and, arguably, Spain’s greatest export. I’ve been hooked on Spain from that very first bite of tortilla at the Boqueria market as a backpacking 19-year-old. But it wasn’t until José came to the F&W offices and opened his black book—which was anything but little—that we realized how much there was still to uncover. It was all we could do to keep up with José’s endless stream of ideas and unyielding exuberance. Soon we had enough must-do, must-eat recommendations to fill a dozen issues—yet even in the final hours, José was eager to add more. His love for Spain knows no bounds (nor deadlines).

As Anthony Bourdain attests: “José is undoubtedly the longest-serving, most persistent, most enthusiastic—and definitely the loudest—advocate for Spanish cuisine around. He’s my go-to source before I even think about booking a ticket.”

In other words, we couldn’t have asked for a better guide and travel companion. José is invariably the first one up in the morning (scattering truffles on his daughters’ scrambled eggs before a sunrise scuba dive) and the last to bed (sipping rum sours and puffing on Cohibas long after midnight). He’s like this everywhere he goes. But you haven’t seen José Andrés come alive until you’ve seen him back in his native Spain. While his countrymen may prefer an afternoon siesta, José has no time for naps: From the moment he arrives, he’s running at breakneck speed from one jamón bar to the next, always moving, always hungry. Take a behind-the-scenes look at his journey through Andalusia (with pals Eric Ripert and Diego Luna in tow).

One reason I especially love this issue—besides the chance to collaborate with my old friend José—is because it embodies a fundamental truth, echoed by Michelle Obama: Everything is better when we travel. We reaffirm that beautiful, inextricable connection between people and place, between culture and cuisine, between food and its landscape of origin. We transport ourselves by eating, and we happily transport ourselves to eat. For me—and I’m guessing you, too—food is a central part of why I travel, and where I find maximum joy. Farmers’ markets, wineries, vermuterías, tapas bars, seafood shacks, temples of modernist gastronomy and nameless holes-in-the-wall alike…these experiences nourish me in every sense.

For travelers, shared enthusiasms are our currency—those secrets traded on the backs of bar napkins, across train aisles or via rambling you-gotta-go-here emails. The best trips are always the ones where I’ve followed the sage advice of friends and fellow food explorers like José. Their insights and instincts—and their local access—have never steered me wrong. We hope this issue will lead you to plenty of discoveries of your own. Me, I’ve already booked my return to Spain. Next month, I’ll spend a few nights in one of my favorite cities, Seville, and make a pilgrimage to Cádiz, where José and his crew found the most amazing langoustines at Casa Bigote. And you know I’ll be staying at Finca Cortesin, one of the gorgeous resorts featured in our roundup.

This is Spain’s moment. What are you waiting for?