Dec 14 2023

José Pizarro

José Pizarro's professional journey stands as a prime example of championing the quality, diversity, and creativity of Spanish cuisine on the international stage. Born in Talaván (Extremadura), José began his culinary career in regional restaurants before making his way to Madrid and eventually the United Kingdom, where he is now recognized as a leading figure in Spanish gastronomy.

Pizarro's initial foray into the culinary world occurred at the Fonda de San Juan restaurant in Cáceres and the Hotel Cañada Real in Plasencia, both in Extremadura. A fortuitous encounter with chef Julio Reoyo paved the way for him to work at El Mesón de Doña Filo, a highly esteemed restaurant in the Madrid region. However, driven by a desire to explore, experiment, and carve out his professional path, Pizarro decided to take a chance on London in 1999. There, he worked in Spanish establishments such as Gaudí and Centro before becoming the head chef at Eyre Brothers, winning the Best New Restaurant accolade from the Good Food Guide in 2002.

Becoming the Tapas Ambassador in London marked a pivotal moment in his career in 2003. Monika Linton, co-founder of the Spanish product import company Brindisa, made him an enticing offer: to establish Tapas Brindisa in London's Borough Market, a hub for the city's gastronomic enthusiasts. The venture was a resounding success, garnering rave reviews in the specialized press and attracting a steady stream of patrons. This led to Pizarro becoming a partner in the Brindisa Tapas Kitchens enterprise, entrusted with opening two new London establishments: Tierra Brindisa in the heart of Soho and Casa Brindisa in South Kensington.

“I love to cook for people. I love entertaining. And food brings friendship.” -  José Pizarro to Finantial Times

In 2011, Pizarro embarked on his solo venture on Bermondsey Street in London with a tapas bar named José. The concept revolved around serving simple, seasonal food paired with an extensive selection of sherries and wines. The menu featured daily specials, including dishes like grilled razor clams, crab and basil croquettes, and Ibérico ham. Pizarro aimed to capture the informal vibrancy of tapas bars in Barcelona's La Boquería combined with the traditional ambiance found in the hot, dusty towns and villages of Andalusia.

Just a block away from José's original tapas bar on Bermondsey Street, Pizarro opened his second London restaurant, aptly named Pizarro. Other active ventures include Iris Zahara (in Andalusia, Spain); José by Pizarro (in Abu Dhabi); José Pizarro by The Royal Academy of Arts and Poster Bar by José (in Burlington Gardens, London); The Swan Inn Esher (in Surrey); and José Pizarro (in Broadgate Circle, London). In each location, the chef invites food enthusiasts to enjoy diverse menus featuring small tapas-style dishes and substantial plates suitable for sharing, such as Spanish omelet, chorizo in red wine, chickpeas and pumpkin stew, among others.

 “Memories are an essential ingredient in my cooking." - José Pizarro

José Pizarro also collaborated with the British traditional brand Epicure to launch a line of Spanish homemade-style sauces, including brava, romesco, alioli, and more. Some of his restaurants also offer select products imported from Spain and used in his own cooking, such as Arroyabe's tuna, artisanal morcilla, Miset's piquillo peppers, pimentón de la Vera (a type of Spanish paprika from Extremadura), and Surat olive oil.

He is a regular contributor to numerous specialist gourmet publications, providing a series of his own recipes for the English version of the book "1080 Recipes" by Simone Ortega. Additionally, Pizarro has authored "Spanish Seasonal Food" and three recipe monographs dedicated to three regional cuisines: Basque, from San Sebastian and beyond; Catalonia, from Barcelona and beyond; and Andalusia.