José Pizarro has to be one of the most enthusiastic, energetic people in food – his restaurants in Bermondsey and Broadgate are always buzzing, packed to the rafters with people enjoying plates of fritters, jamon, grilled octopus and chocolate on toast.
At this summer's Taste of London there were constant queues for his food: the torrejas in sticky orange caramel sauce were the stuff of legend. This winter, with three busy restaurants to run, he's not able to bring the whole team – but José told me he was desperate not to miss out altogether. ‘I love the Taste of London event so much! I said to them, please, I can't be there for the whole show, but I can do a cooking demonstration – it's going to be great!’
He'll be on the main stage showcasing his take on duck breast, with pumpkin and a sherry sauce with pine nuts and raisins – all the flavours of a Spanish Christmas. ‘I wanted to demonstrate a dish which people can make themselves, and really, duck is so easy to cook, easier than chicken.’
There'll be no cheffy techniques, then: ‘I'm not making a lentil foam or anything like that! This really is as simple as those pre-cooked dishes you see in the supermarket. And duck is easy to find nowadays, you can get it in most big shops and your local butcher.’
José has been one of the pioneers of truly modern Spanish food, and he's been proud to showcase it to a wider public. ‘When I arrived in this country fifteen years ago, no-one really knew anything about it. If they saw jamon Iberico they thought it must be Parma ham. It's so healthy and quick to make at home, and nowadays you can get all sorts of ingredients, different kinds of paprika, good quality tuna – even in a local corner shop.’