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What’s cooking! José Pizarro at the Swan Inn, Claygate

The celebrated Spanish chef spills the beans on the famous faces he's fed, which food is highly overrated and the three dishes everyone should master.

Your first job (in a kitchen)?
I was a kitchen porter in a small restaurant in the beautiful village where I’m from, Talaván in Cáceres, Extremadura. 

Career highlight?
Entertaining friends and guests at the guesthouse my partner Peter and I have recently acquired in Zahara de los Atunes, Cadiz – Iris Zahara

Sum up your cooking style/ food philosophy?
Get the best ingredients and cook simply: it’s all about quality produce and simple yet delicious flavour.

Most memorable moment at work?
Cooking for my mother at my first restaurant, Pizarro.

Ever cooked for anyone famous?
Quite a few! Victoria Beckham and The Rolling Stones, to name a couple. When Tracy Emin came to eat at one of my restaurants I went straight over to her and offered her my first cookbook: we’ve been great friends ever since.

Your biggest mistake at work?
Taking on too much by saying yes to everything! 

You’re tired, starving and impatient: what do you cook for dinner?
A simple omelette with a side salad. 

What would you cook to impress a date?
A beautiful rice dish, like a paella. A true labour of love.

Favourite chef?
Spanish chef, Julio Reoyo.

Favourite cookbook?
The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden.


Favourite type of cuisine?
Spanish of course! But otherwise I love Asian flavours – I adore Indian, Chinese, and Japanese food.

Favourite kitchen gadget?
A pestle and mortar

Favourite local restaurant?
The Good Earth, a Chinese restaurant, in Esher

Favourite things to eat when you’re on holiday?
Gadira Almadraba (red tuna) in Zahara de los Atunes. It is so tender and fresh, and best of all it is sustainably fished. 

What mistake do inexperienced cooks tend to make?
Stressing over overcomplicated menus! The most important thing is to cook simple food and enjoy doing it.

Favourite ingredient and why?
Olive oil. I grew up on it and it runs in my veins. It’s the first and last ingredient in almost everything I cook. 

Most over-rated dish?
Cupcakes – what’s the point? 

The dish you’re most proud of creating?
Bringing Jamón Ibérico to the British public.

Three dishes every home cook should master?
Omelette; rice; and fish. Simple dishes that require minimal effort, yet when done right are sublime.

José Pizarro is owner of José Pizarro The Swan Inn in Claygate. It’s his first gastropub and the fourth restaurant in his repertoire joining three restaurants in central London. As well as serving his signature Spanish small plates, The Swan Inn is also a boutique B&B. Read our review here.


José Pizarro The Swan Inn, 2 Hare Lane, Claygate, KT10 9BS. Tel: 01372 462582

josepizarro.com

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