José Andrés' Ultimate Guide to Spain
To me, Spain’s capital is not unlike Washington, DC, where I have most of my restaurants—there’s this eclectic vibe because people move here from all over. Madrid has an incredibly strong culinary tradition, with century-old restaurants that are preserving history. But there’s also a vanguard here that makes the food scene so exciting.
Basque Country, or País Vasco, is a unique and mysterious place. My mother comes from a small town in the northern part, and I’ve always loved exploring its distinct culinary culture. (The seafood and vegetables are incredible.) Some of the best chefs in Spain—Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter, Elena; Martín Berasategui; Andoni Luis Aduriz—come from Basque Country, and together they’ve sparked a culinary revolution.
These provinces in the east of Spain, on the Mediterranean coast, are all about the rice. There are huge paddies outside the city of Valencia that grow two special varieties, Calasparra and Bomba, which are key to the amazing paellas and arroz dishes for which the region is rightly famed.
I was born here, in Spain’s northwest, and I love going back to visit family and friends. Set along the Cantabrian Sea, Asturias has amazing seafood. Every winter I make a pilgrimage to eat oricios (sea urchins)—they’re like kissing the sea! The region is also famous for its cheeses (Cabrales blue cheese is the best known), and the chilly climate is perfect for apple orchards and cider, or sidra.
When I was six, my family moved to the Catalan capital. At 15, I enrolled in culinary school here, and I loved nothing more than visiting the central market, Boqueria, where I really started to understand the complex mix of cultures that make this such a fascinating place. Barcelona is a creative city—so many imaginative chefs, artists and architects have found their inspiration here.