José Andrés officially opened his newest restaurant, Jaleo, at Disney Springs Thursday with a closed door reception for invited media and guests.
The Disney Springs Jaleo, which occupies a vastly refurbished building that once held Wolfgang Puck Cafe, is the fifth and largest for Andrés’ Washington, D.C., based ThinkFoodGroup. The building also has a dedicated corner for Pepe, a fast food restaurant based on Andrés’ food truck.
A highlight of the open kitchen is a wood-fired paella pit for cooking one of the signature dishes.
While invited guests were beginning to arrive inside the restaurant, Andrés sat down with a group of five media representatives, including three from Spanish language outlets. We sat on the patio overlooking the lagoon as the chef, still in a Patagonia quilted jacket, talked about opening the restaurant.
I asked him if there is a point where a chef and restaurateur loses control over what goes on at his properties because there are too many of them — his company owns and operates 15 brands. He said there was, but the key was having people he can trust at each location. He said that he is often asked, “Who cooks when you’re not here?” His reply: “The same person who cooks when I’m here.”
He told us that having a restaurant at Disney has been a dream of his ever since he first visited Epcot and saw that Paul Bocuse had a restaurant there. He said that Spain should be represented. “Spain is meant to have a bigger presence in Florida,” he said. “Spain arrived [to Florida] before anyone else in Europe.”
Here’s a video from the opening.