Diners aren’t the only ones who eat well at Minibar. The staff of José Andrés’ avant-garde restaurant get pretty extravagant when it comes to its own daily “family” meals. Typically, the kitchen’s four-person morning team, which gets in at 7 a.m., creates a menu for its peers while prepping for the evening dinner service. Every day at 3 p.m., the entire 30-person staff at Barmini and Minibar—front and back of the house—crowd around Minibar’s 12 seats to break bread together. Saturdays, in particular, have become occasions for blow-out feasts, sometimes involving days of preparation.
Executive sous chef Johnny Spero captures it all on Instagram. “Everybody works a lot of hours, we want to make sure they’re well taken care of,” he says. “It’s really important to José that everybody sits down together like a family. It’s the only time in our entire 12-hour, if not more, long shift that we all have to sit down and talk with each other.” Check out some of the restaurant’s best behind-the-scenes meals, documented by Spero.
Spero spent two days preparing the rich pork broth for his tonkotsu-style ramen. He worked briefly at Toki Underground, so he sourced the noodles from the H Street NE spot. The soup was garnished with charred scallion oil, soft poached egg, pickled ginger, and scallions.
The bakery that supplies Minibar’s brioche baked a special six-foot party sub roll that the cooks turned into a Reuben sandwich. They brined 10 pounds of pastrami for a week and then smoked it for six hours before slicing the meat paper thin. One bartender made a huge batch of Thousand Island dressing and other condiments.
A sous-chef, who was leaving Minibar to go work with the research and development team of Andrés’ Think Food Group, requested a sushi feast before she parted. The assortment included a wide range of rolls and sashimi with tuna, salmon, and other fish that they specially ordered for the occasion. “We just covered the entire table with sushi,” Spero says.
Cook Andre Ruggiero set up a carving station, and everyone waited in line as if it were a hotel buffet. Brined and slow-roasted sliced pork was accompanied by roasted potatoes and a salad. Ruggiero even created a hat for the occasion fashioned out of two Krispy Kreme caps. (One Krispy Kreme hat wasn’t tall enough.)
After earning four stars in the Washington Post’s spring dining guide, the team prepared a Greek meal of roasted lamb, tzatziki, and fresh pita bread supplied by nearby sister restaurant Zaytinya, which they turned into little sandwiches. And in case an entire lamb shoulder wasn’t enough food, there were some chicken thighs, too.
Photos courtesy Johnny Spero