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Jose Andres



April 20, 2013

Taking the focus from being liked to being used
By Francine Cohen

Pinas in oven tight shot

The other night I found myself at the bar at Employees Only. The purpose was tri-fold; I needed to taste the entire range of spirits from the newly launched 86 Company as a story about them was pending, I hadn’t seen Dev Johnson in far too long and a semi-proper catch up was in order, and my aunt was visiting from out of town and it had been even longer since I’d seen her and had any sort of quality conversation that wasn’t overshadowed by the entire family sitting around a Thanksgiving dinner table and engaged in less intimate chatter.

So, at 6:00 PM on the nose we entered the hushed tones of EO ( Having been there myriad times, but only one other when it was this empty, it was a whole other place but one that I imagined filled with people. People coming from after work around the corner with their friends in accounting, neighbors popping in on their way home, and the expected industry folks paying homage to the bar for reasons as varied as just wanting a good cocktail to hoping to ply their wares and/or support an account.

In the quiet of the first hour my aunt and I were able to catch up, Dev and I reminisced a bit, and Vincent Vitek made us laugh. Suddenly, right next to me sat three Mexican gentlemen. There why? To pay homage to the institution known as EO and graciously introduce their line of mezcals. Interesting fellows, all, and, as happens in bars, our two parties melded and we five fell into conversation and discovered we had a lot to talk about that went well beyond the booze business (which is refreshing); and, of course, their Wahaka mezcal came out for me to taste (

Far different from the mezcal I usually order, both the ones I tasted last night opened up a whole new appreciation for a different kind of terroir association. The first immediately hit me as having a mustiness to it; as if the smoke flavor that generally gets imparted during production had been muffled by cotton wool. Not offensive, just that that was my gut reaction. One person mentioned above found it oily, another liked it. The second mezcal I tried made me feel as if the spirit were very vertical. Not just a long finish, a descriptor which to me means it lingers and coats the inside of your cheeks, but actually as if there was a very directed column of mezcal running down the middle of my tongue and picking up those spicier flavor receptors along the way.

Interesting to discover later that the second mezcal was made from a wild agave which, unlike the Weber Blue with which we make tequila, the wild agave harvested for this mezcal was tall and had a trunk. Hence the vertical? Who knows! I certainly can’t claim to be an all knowing botanist who would have immediately recognized that the origins of this liquor came from a taller standing plant and that’s why it resonated “vertical”; I just think that’s how it made me feel and so that’s what came out of my mouth when asked.

When Dev asked what I thought about the mezcals my immediate and honest reaction was to say that there were elements of it I liked and elements of it I didn’t. I wasn’t jumping up and down and raving about how wonderful they were. It wasn’t that I DIDN’T enjoy them, but I wasn’t going to unequivocally give these spirits I’d just tasted a whole hearted two thumbs up and a big snap. But you know what? That’s okay.

I felt the same way about the vodka, gin, rum and tequila I tasted from the 86 Company’s line ( They make things I would drink on its own (thank you Cana Brava) and things I’d like to sip mixed into a cocktail. But that’s just my opinion; though it has some validity given that the 86 Co. designed their spirits for cocktails. The more I taste the more I believe that it’s not so important whether or not I “like” it. This is not a popularity test. For me, despite the fact that I don’t run a bar, it’s the application that is important. Remembering that each spirit can be a tool. And that you need lots of tools in your tool belt to build a house. One of them may be the 86 Company’s products, or you might reach for Wahaka mezcals. Some you may like to use, others you have no use for at all. Chefs like Rick Bayless ( and Jose Andres ( who both carry Wahaka in their restaurant bars understand this. So do Angelo Sosa and his bar manager Josh Wortman over at Anejo ( Like every ingredient they bring into the kitchen they understand that spirit doesn’t fit into every drink or every bar.

Appreciating how they can is what sets you apart from the pack who just wants to be “liked.”



August 27, 2012

What you may want to consider when courting a celebrity chef or existing concept
By Francine Cohen

Undoubtedly, hiring a celebrity chef or bringing on a familiar concept to be a spotlight restaurant on property is a calculated move. One designed to leverage their popularity and benefit from their exposure and ability to draw in guests. Finding the right name brand chef or restaurant group to partner with your hotel can be an interesting process and requires quite a bit of consideration in terms of how you are going to run your f&b program and what you want to represent to the outside world when people think of dining with you.

Bringing that known entity on board can be a very good idea that results in a mutually beneficial partnership, but, as always advised before getting into bed with someone, doing your due diligence makes the decision an even better idea. And one that will enable you to insure your partnership is in keeping with your brand’s philosophy.

At the family friendly resort, Atlantis, Paradise Island (, a new restaurant came on board (Virgil’s – that was an extension of an existing, and satisfying, partnership. Ian Reid, SVP of Food & Beverage explains how and why the relationship with Alicart restaurant group ( has expanded to satisfy guests, “My team and I evaluated what cuisines were currently being offered at Atlantis and identified Virgil’s Real BBQ as the perfect way to incorporate a dining experience that we didn’t offer anywhere on property. It was important to craft a mouth-watering dining menu that would be familiar to our guests and to add another great value option to our Atlantis meal plans.”

This new addition went into an old restaurant space that existed on the property. Virgil’s took over where the Waters Edge restaurant left off, offering diners an indoor space that’s 11,000 square feet and a 3,000 square-foot outdoor patio. Reid describes, “Noted interior architect and designer, Jeffrey Beers, translated the restaurant’s road-trip concept into Continue Reading…

Rocks Stars


July 31, 2011

5 questions for Owen Thomson, Lead Bartender for Jose Andres’ Think Food Group, Washington, DC

We know Owen Thomson has a big appetite for creative drinks and delicious food. We’ve broken bread with him at New Orleans locals’ favorite restaurant Elizabeth (; the man can order!

Plus, during Tales ( he sat on the SavourEase panel with Mixtress Gina Chersevani and Chef Peter Smith of PS7s (

With all this under his belt it is no wonder he’s running the beverage program for celebrated chef Jose Andres.

And has this to say about the industry…

Q1. How many years have you been coming to Tales of the Cocktail?
A. Five

Q2. Do you wear an armband behind the bar?
A. Uh… NO…

Q3. As a veteran in the industry, what advice do you have for someone who is just starting out in the business?
A. Keep and open mind, and don’t ever think that you know everything.

Q4. Sponsorships aside, what’s your Go-To spirit right now?
A. Bourbon and Rye. Although, I drink everything…

Q5. Cubed or Crushed Ice?
A. Summer? Crushed. Other times of the year, Big Fat Cubes…

Agreed! Enjoy Tales…



May 10, 2011

Congratulations to the 2011 James Beard Foundation Award Winners
By Francine Cohen

Photo by Krishna Dayanidhi

While the outside world may view the James Beard Awards as the food industry’s Oscars or Emmys, those in the know who spent the night catching up with dressed up chefs, sommeliers, and restaurateurs affectionately refer to this annual event as the chef prom. And prom-like it is, with everyone in their finery and the king and queen (aka best chefs and best restaurants) crowned for all to celebrate as the dance party goes into the wee hours.

Here are this year’s winners. You may not know them all, but you should. They’re easy to spot – just look for the big bronze medal hanging off a striking yellow ribbon around their neck.

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November 4, 2010

Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” program calls for culinary creativity
By Julia Mix Barrington

Photo courtesy of Landmarc

Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative ( has a new weapon in the fight against childhood obesity: America’s restaurant chefs. Launched in February, Obama’s program partners with professional chefs to visit public school classrooms and teach schoolchildren to create fun, healthy dishes themselves. However, in a September 16th address to the National Restaurant Association, the First Lady said these restaurant chefs who serve as role models must do more.

Obama began her address with an unsettling statistic, “The meals [kids eat] in restaurants have twice as many calories as the meals they eat at home.” Larger portions and an emphasis on pleasing young, often picky, palates lead to kids’ menus crammed with chicken fingers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and other “sugary, fatty, salty foods.” However, the First Lady had more than reproach for the restaurateurs of America. “In the restaurant industry, creativity is your life blood,” she told the crowd. “It’s what sets you apart from the competition and keeps customers coming back for more. And today I am asking you to use that creativity to rethink the food you offer–especially dishes aimed at young people. And to help us make a healthier choice, the easier choice.”

Chefs have long been aware of the problem of children’s nutrition—the catch-22 between getting kids to eat healthy and getting kids to eat at all. According to Chef Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City, CA (, “Kids enjoy the foods that you give them”—provided that you start them early on the good stuff. “I believe in not babying kids through their investigations of food,” Ford says. “I don’t want to stifle them or retard them.” Therefore Ford’s Filling Station doesn’t have a separate children’s menu, though kids are welcome and encouraged to try the braised rabbit, fish and chips, polenta cake, or whatever else strikes their fancy. And according to Ford, the children of Culver City are delighted to oblige—the early seatings at Ford’s Filling Station can see as many as twenty children at once.

“There are a lot of young kids out there who are way ahead of their parents as far as taste buds are concerned,” says Ford, adding that the restaurant has “a real foodie kid following.” Ford is happy to have young people in the dining room because he knows that the child foodies of today are very likely to be tomorrow’s customers.
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