There will be a José Andrés restaurant in a Trump hotel after all, although it is no longer owned by the former president. Seven years after an acrimonious dispute with Donald Trump, the Spanish chef tweeted yesterday that he is opening a restaurant in Washington’s historic Old Post Office building, built in the late 19th century, and used as the city’s main post office until 1914. Trump developed the property into a luxury hotel and recently sold it to CGI Merchant Group. Workers promptly removed all the Trump International Hotel signs, and it reopened on June 1 as the Waldorf Astoria Washington DC. On June 14, José Andrés released a short video recorded as the chimes were ringing at the top of the building’s imposing bell tower.
“Hello, how are you? Those are the bells of the Old Post Office ringing,” said the renowned chef. “I’ve come to this place dreaming of what we’re about to do here. These bells are announcing that I’m coming back to the Old Post Office to open a restaurant. I’ll tell you more about it in the future, but the good news is that my longtime dream I first discussed back in 1993 with Senator Patrick Moynihan, is finally coming to fruition. Almost 30 years later, I’m finally going to open a restaurant in this building. For whom the bells toll – for a new restaurant by José Andrés in the Old Post Office! God bless America! Longer tables!”
José Andrés dashed his own dream nearly seven years ago when he decided to cancel plans to open a restaurant in Trump’s five-star Washington hotel in protest of remarks made by Trump while campaigning for president. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. [...] They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
After he pulled out of the deal, Trump’s hotel company sued José Andrés for US$10 million for violating their agreement. José Andrés countered with his own lawsuit claiming US$7.5 million for expenses incurred and lost revenue plus interest, alleging that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric scared off potential clients and employees from the planned Latino-themed restaurant. Both parties settled out of court in 2017 and released amicable statements about each other.
With José Andrés bowing out, chef David Burke opened BLT Prime, a high-end steakhouse, in the Trump International Hotel. Burke met Trump when he served him a meal on his yacht during a Fourth of July celebration. The restaurant became a favorite haunt of the president’s inner circle, and was virtually the only place in Washington where Trump would eat outside the White House.
The hotel’s revenue sank during the pandemic, prompting Trump’s company to sell the property to Miami investment firm CGI Merchant Group, which later struck a deal with Hilton Worldwide Holdings to open a hotel there under the Waldorf Astoria brand. Trump collected US$375 million, although the deal only involves the operation of the hotel, which is inside a building leased from the federal government.
According to the Washington Post, José Andrés is a minority partner in CGI. With the Trump brand now eliminated from the building, the chef began to think again about a restaurant in the Old Post Office, which is just a few blocks from Jaleo, the first establishment he opened in Washington. José Andrés remembers talking often with his now-deceased customer and friend, Senator Patrick Moynihan of New York, about opening a restaurant in what was then a run-down and neglected building, a far cry back then from the luxurious property it has become today.
The restaurant will be a new location for The Bazaar chain, adding to the brand managed by José Andrés and his ThinkFoodGroup partners. The Bazaar has a successful restaurant in Miami Beach and is opening a new one later this year in New York. The Bazaar Meat brand has locations in Las Vegas and Chicago, and will opening another one in Los Angeles in late 2022.
José Andrés is a self-made man and the embodiment of the American dream. He built a small empire of 30 restaurants from scratch, and also founded World Central Kitchen, a humanitarian aid organization that serves free meals during natural disasters, armed conflicts, and other emergencies. José Andrés is currently helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing from the Russian invasion of their country.