We chat to the chef about Dubai, essential ingredients and his must-try dishes…

Thirty years on from the opening of the debut Jaleo in the US, acclaimed chef José Andrés has opened his signature Spanish restaurant in Dubai. For his first Middle Eastern outpost, chef José Andrés moves into the lower ground floor of Atlantis The Royal, a destination he describes as ‘far more than a resort.’

The celebrity chef, known for putting his star touch to the rich diversity of Spanish cuisine, helms a restaurant that is casual and colourful, while still feeling authentic and stylish.

“For me to bring Spanish cooking to Dubai, a restaurant I opened 30 years ago, is very special. This was may way to tell the story of who I am and the country I came from,” he explains when we meet ahead of the opening of Jaleo. But why Dubai. “To paraphrase Hamilton, you want to be in the room where it happens,” Andrés explains. “There’s a lot of exciting things happening here. Dubai is a melting pot, and to me places that are melting pots are highly exciting.”

Jaleo translates to ‘revelry’, and that’s exactly what chef José Andrés hopes guests enjoy when they dine here. “Everybody who knows me knows I like to have fun,” Andrés says. “I have fun cooking, I have fun eating, and I want the people to do the same,” he laughs.

Even the design echoes that festive spirit. While restaurants of celebrity chefs tend to be stuffy and structured, Jaleo is relaxed and unpretentious. The dining room is adorned in shades of bright red and yellow, nods to the signature colours of Spain, and features cosy areas like a private dining room, open-view wine cellar, and a terrace featuring 100-year-old olive trees. “I love olive oil,” he says when asked about the ingredients he couldn’t live without. “You see we have 10 olive trees here on the terrace. I only wanted one, it was my dream to have one, and Atlantis found me ten.”

The chef talks animatedly about ingredients, while simultaneously navigating his way around a bubbling paella, he and his team have been masterfully creating during our interview. “I love eggs. I think I might be the reason eggs are one of the most expensive items right now. And sherry vinegar, it brings everything to life. And then of course I love sea urchin, I love oysters, I love truffles. You’ll find all these ingredients here.”

The menu at Jaleo is designed to be shared over long evenings with friends, as guests enjoy a meal of local ingredients that form the base of authentic Spanish dishes. Traditional small plates of Spain, signature tapas, savoury paellas are all on the menu. Plus Andres’ signatures like the Paella Valenciana, Jamón Ibérico de Bellota and croquetas de pollo.

“The croquetas,” Andrés says firmly when asked which one dish diners should order. “It’s a dish my mum used to make when the fridge was empty. My mother was always really good at making things from nothing. And I remember those croquetas from being a little kid, if there was an odd number, there was trouble. My brothers and I would always fight over the last one,” he smiles.

Family recipes are at the heart of the entire menu at Jaleo. “My mother was a nurse, and my father was a nurse, I learned to cook from both of them,” explains Andrés. “On weekends my father would make a paella for the everyone in the community. He would invite everybody to come over for food on a Sunday and my mother would worry because he never kept track of how many people he invited. But my father always said ‘don’t worry, if more people show up, we just add more rice to the pan,’ the chef reflects. “My father taught me the meaning of controlling the fire. My father always thought that big problems had simple solutions.”

Jaleo, Ground Floor, Atlantis The Royal, Palm Jumeirah, 6pm to 1am daily. atlantis.com, @jaleodubai