No one puts Jose Andres in a corner.
The irrepressible chef — the man of the ever-expanding ThinkFoodGroup empire (now with food truck!) — first started serving little fried things in an actual Camper shoe at his restaurants in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Apparently, the L.A. health department decided to put its foot down over the practice.
“I began serving in the shoes, but the shoes get dirty,” Andres told me this week as he prepared to reopen Jaleo in Penn Quarter after a 30-day renovation. “Then the health inspector comes, and he’s trying to figure out what to do with them.”
Well, Andres decided he wasn’t about to have the health police ruin his fun. So he teamed up with his friend and designer Sami Hayek to develop his own food-safe serving shoe, which is making its D.C. debut at the redesigned Jaleo.
“I love this shoe, man!” said Andres, only starting to enter the gush stream. “I just love this shoe! I’m in love with this shoe!”
The “shoe” is made out of resin, and for the sneaker connoisseur, you’ll note one major change with this fake footware: It’s not a Camper. It’s a classic ’50s-era low-top Converse, complete with laces.
“We went to look at all the shoes. What was the first shoe, sports shoe, that became really an icon?” Andres asked. It was, of course, Converse, at least in America.
As much as the shoe will be a conversational starter — or a “check, please” finisher? — it’s really what’s inside the sneaker that counts. When Andres showed off the gym shoe to me this week, his kitchen stuffed it with Jaleo’s croquetas, which were lightly fried and filled with a velvety mixture of chicken and cheese. I wanted to lick that shoe clean. It’s too bad you can’t always have Jose Andres in the dining room to keep a kitchen on its, ahem, toes.
Even the boss was taken with his team’s work this day.
“A good chicken croqueta is a good croqueta,” he said, beaming like a proud father. “That’s the croqueta I grew up with.”
Now the question is: Which shoe looks more or less appetizing to you? The original Camper with a wax paper liner? (See photo below.) Or the newly designed Converse shoe? Let us know in the comments.