Chef José Andrés has a stern expression on his face. He is wearing his white chef’s jacket and khaki-colored pants. He is tasting each dish his Los Angeles kitchens will serve in about an hour to hundreds of guests. They’ve each paid $125 or more to celebrate on this Tuesday night the 10th anniversary of the Bazaar, the first venture Andrés opened outside his home turf of Washington D.C. The Bazaar is in the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles. Andrés says the celebration is well worth having.
“Well, this was my first time I moved away from D.C. when my buddy Sam Nazarian [CEO of the SBE Entertainment Group, which owns the SLS Hotels] came to find me,” Andrés explains while sitting in a booth at Bar Blanca, the cigar-friendly patio that is part of the Bazaar. “The partnership grew very prosperous in more ways than one. We have four Bazaars now [LA, Miami, Miami Beach and Las Vegas]. I think Bazaar in LA came to shape the dining scene in LA. I think there were not a lot of concepts like Bazaar, with food carts moving and different stations outside and cuisine that was meant to be shared and small dishes and bites. So, every time you celebrate 10 years of a restaurant, it’s good news, you know? So that’s what we’re doing.”
The food, ranging from roast suckling pig with perfectly crispy skin to the foie gras cotton candy, is arranged by station. There are 20 of them throughout the vast floor of the Bazaar, which is really four restaurants inside the SLS hotel complex. Tonight, Andrés has brought in his teams from all the Bazaar restaurants to create their specialties.
No such event would be complete without the Bazaar’s signature “air breads,” distinctive because the bread is baked to puff up like a balloon. The hollow of the bread is then filled with, this night, four different varieties. Miami Beach’s Bazaar offers a Cuban sandwich air bread filled with molten Swiss cheese and topped with roast pork, ham and grated pickles; the Reuben comes from Las Vegas’ Bazaar Meat; and the Bagel & Lox from Bazaar Mar in Miami. The classic Philly Cheesesteak air bread is available in L.A. It’s filled with molten sharp cheddar and topped with thin slices of Wagyu beef and chives.
Guests stood in line to sample the Jamón Ibérico, Iberian ham and to get individually made frozen caipirinhas, a Brazilian drink made with a rum-like alcohol and lots of mint and sugar. Think mojito, but frozen and stronger. A small wooden spoon was placed inside each glass.
Of course, there was also a cigar roller set up on the Bar Blanca patio offering smokes of different sizes, including a barber-pole torpedo. The filler was Ecuadoran with various wrappers, including Cameroon and Connecticut Shade.
“For me it’s where I’ve smoked hundreds of cigars. It’s a place that whenever I’m in L.A., I end my days and nights here with a cigar and whatever is the drink of the day,” Andrés said.
Sitting on the patio, Andrés is asked about his humanitarian efforts that have led to his recently being nominated by a member of the U.S. Congress for a Nobel Peace Prize. Andrés did not want to discuss that, but was eager to explain that his organization, World Central Kitchen, has had a very busy two years feeding the victims of disasters in Puerto Rico (hurricane), Indonesia (earthquake), Haiti (a culinary school), California (fires) and Tijuana (the migrant caravan).
“We had big dreams for the long term,” Andrés said of World Central Kitchen, while holding a Montecristo No. 2 he had just been given, “but those big dreams happened in a shorter term. We are good on feeding solutions. We always say we bring smart solutions. We are always very well positioned for providing food relief very quickly.”
That was evident this night as well. No one left hungry.