José Andrés returns to the former Trump Hotel

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We love fate stories: lovers who find each other decades later, a ring long thought lost, a second chance.

If the universe has any control over these things, it appears that José Andrés was destined to open a restaurant in the historic Old Post Office Pavilion along the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue that connects the White House and Capitol. His plans to open a luxury outpost of his restaurant empire in the iconic building exploded seven years ago in a dispute with his would-be landlord, presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The split began with Trump’s campaign comments about immigrants, which angered Spanish-born Andrés, who has made his love of America’s immigrant history a central part of his identity. Lawsuits, court battles, headlines followed — and a divisive Trump presidency.

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Now Trump is an ex-president whose name has been removed from the glitzy hotel that would have housed André’s restaurant. However, Andrés returns to Pennsylvania Avenue and plans to open a new restaurant in the same location as before.

One location of the Bazaar, André’s global concept, will open later this year under the hotel’s new management, a Miami investment fund called CGI Merchant Group, which will operate as the Waldorf Astoria. Andrés is not just a tenant in the deal; he also owns an undisclosed portion of the fund.

“It’s very symbolic for me to open this restaurant in the heart of the city, bringing Bazaar to the city that has given me so much of who I am,” Andrés said in an interview.

Andrés didn’t seem interested in rehashing his fight with Trump. This may be partly due to the agreement reached by the two sides, the terms of which have not been made public.

“It was just business,” he said. “Businessmen doing business.”

Andrés would rather talk about another politician who has played a role in the tortuous history of the forthcoming restaurant. He recalled that the idea of ​​opening a restaurant in the Alte Post building was put into his head by none other than Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan decades ago. The legendary New York Democrat had dined at Jaleo, the Chinatown restaurant where Andrés first made his name as a chef, and the two struck up a friendship. Andrés said he didn’t realize at first that his serious, dedicated guest was a senator.

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Moynihan, whose aim was urban renewal and revitalization of American inner cities, thought the building — which was languishing and whose lower floors were filled with lackluster food court restaurants and retail outlets — could be a gem. And he encourages Andrés to dream, said the chef. “He said, ‘Jose, maybe one day you’ll open your own apartment there,'” Andrés said. “It’s amazing to me that it happened – it’s such an iconic building and he was an iconic man.”

It’s another Made in America origin story for Andrés, who often recounts how he arrived in the United States from Spain with $50 in his pocket before rising through the ranks to run restaurants that bear his name , in cities from Las Vegas to Dubai.

Bazaar will occupy the space that housed BLT Prime, the recently closed steakhouse helmed by New York chef David Burke, who the Trumps chose after the spectacular failure of the original deal with Andrés. The BLT Prime excelled, if not for particularly innovative cuisine, at least for being a dining destination for members of the Trump administration, who might have found a less friendly welcome at other Washington restaurants. Trump fans could often be seen taking selfies and scouring the glittering lobby for VIPs.

It was the only Beltway establishment where the former president dined outside the gates of the White House, in stark contrast to many previous presidents, particularly President Barack Obama, who enjoyed date nights at some of the city’s swankiest tables and working lunches at local ones Burgers enjoyed joints and delis. Trump was always greeted with his signature order: a well-done steak with fries and ketchup, plus a Diet Coke.

Andrés imagines a different clientele. Although the atmosphere will certainly be upscale, he said he wants to be inclusive. “Without a doubt, wherever I open a restaurant, everyone is welcome,” he said.

Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup already operates Bazaar locations in Los Angeles and Miami, with another planned in New York. Beef-focused spin-off Bazaar Meat has locations in Chicago and Las Vegas, with a third opening soon in Los Angeles. The Washington outpost will seat 200, and its “bold and playful” interior (according to TFG’s announcement) will be designed by Barcelona-based design firm Lázaro Rosa-Violán.

When asked if he planned to perform some sort of incense or sage burning ritual to drive away any unwanted spirits left behind by former residents, Andrés just laughed and focused on the workers. “I don’t think they’re evil spirits — the people who worked at this hotel are good people, they’re Washingtonians, like me, and they treated everyone with respect,” he said.

Some might see Andrés’ opening a restaurant in the high-profile Perch as a victory over his one-time nemesis. But Andrés sees it more as a triumph for his pro-immigrant worldview, which he often invokes in his mantra of ‘longer tables, not higher walls’.

“Longer tables,” he said, “always win the day.”

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