José Pizarro was one of the first chefs to re-open his Spanish restaurants (José and Pizarro) on Bermondsey Street, offering customers meals they could ‘finish at home’, wine and cocktails aplenty, and ready-to-eat tapas. Although he suspected a July opening was possible, his desire to work like this - serving people through his restaurant’s windows, striking up conversations whenever time would allow - was done, in part, for his customers. And because sitting at home just didn't feel right. “I love adrenalin, I love to be busy, I love the stress … It’s why I spent three weeks in the house and I didn't like it, I needed to do something. I need to feed the community. I need to help the staff and I need to help myself to be busy … I need to be creative. Being creative doesn't mean only placing fancy food on the plate. Being creative can be in how you approach, how you develop the food. That is creativity as well.”

I doubt José is surprised his menu - filled with classics like tortilla and croquetas - has made people as happy as it has. But while ‘finish at home’ may offer a temporary reprieve, it’s unlikely anything will replace a restaurant’s atmosphere. “I always try to see how I can please people. Hospitality is about customers, it’s not about me. You come here because you want to be out and you want to have a good time, have fun, enjoy. And we are here to provide that.” 

“For me food is happiness, food is memories, food is sadness. Food memories are lovely memories. It is something we will always have with us … [We] need to reinvent business - how food is going to be, how you think about food - but love for food will never change. My dad always said, ‘whatever you do, do with love’. Respect the world, respect the planet, your family and the customer. It’s what we need to do.”

Words by Liz Schaffer & Photographs by Orlando Gili