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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


A Remembrance of Charlie Trotter: Tapas Hopping in Madrid

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The world received the sad news today that the great Chef Charlie Trotter, just 54 years old, died today in Chicago.  Since Charlie was one of this country's most important chefs and a fine dining pioneer, a lot will be written about him in the day's to come.  I won't even try to claim that I knew Charlie well or had a real relationship with him.  The few times I did communicate with him, it was through our mutual friend, Chef Norman Van Aken, who was a great buddy of Charlie's.

Charlie Trotter & Norman Van Aken at Casa Rafa, Madrid. 
Photo by Gerry Dawes /

I had my close encounter with Charlie one night during Madrid Fusión 2006 and it was a memorable one.  Somehow I rounded up a posse to go on an impromptu tapas hopping excursion one night in Madrid.  The group included Charlie and his then fiancee (later wife) Rochelle Smith, Norman and Janet Van Aken, Tetsuya Wakuda, Spanish journalist Juanma Bellver and Chef Don Alfonso Iacarrino (Don Alfonso 1890, Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, Naples) and his wife Livia.  We were expected a new place that Catalan Chef Sergi Arola had just opened, but I suggested that we stop first at one of my favorite tapas route places in Madrid, Marisquería Rafa, in the Ibiza neighborhood on the far side of Retiro Park. 

Madrid, Marisquería Rafa. Photo by Gerry Dawes /

We all gathered in the bar at Rafa and ran through quite a bit of good seafood tapas and vino and I snapped a number of photographs (and let Alfonso Iaccarino take one of the group with me in it, a shot I have always treasured, even more so after hearing the sad news about Charlie's death).  

The group at Marisquería Rafa: (l to r), Gerry Dawes, Tetsuya Wakuda, Rochelle Smith, Livia Iacarrino, Janet Van Aken, Charlie Trotter, Norman Van Aken and Don Alfonso Iacarrino, who took this photo.

After about an hour, we decided it was time to move on.  I was instructed to ask for the bill.  Charlie declared that he was going to pay the bill.   We all offered to chip in but Charlie wouldn't hear it.  But, when he pulled out an AMEX Platinum card to pay, he was met with a challenge by Tetsuya Wakuda, who declared that he was going to pay and pushed his way towards the check.    Charlie began to jockey with Tetsuya for the bill and pulled out a second AMEX Platinum card, laying both on the counter.  Tetsuya slapped down an AMEX Black card, trumping Charlie's two Platinum cards, and he paid the bill, then we all went off to Sergi Arola's place.

We finally got to Sergi Arola's newly opened restaurant (now closed): Alfonso Iacarrino, Norman Van Aken, Charlie Trotter, Sergi Arola, a manager at Sergi's place and Tetsuya Wakuda.  Photo by Gerry Dawes / 

Que descanses en paz, Charlie.
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“The American writer and town crier for all good Spanish things Gerry Dawes . . .the American connoisseur of all things Spanish . . .” – The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge and The World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese

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"Gerry Dawes, I can't thank you enough for opening up Spain to me." -- Michael Chiarello on Twitter. Chef Chiarello toured northern Spain with me in October 2011 and was just in Barcelona again in January 2013.  He is preparing to open his new Spanish inspired restaurant, Coqueta, at San Francisco's Pier 5 in April.

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"In his nearly thirty years of wandering the back roads of Spain," Gerry Dawes has built up a much stronger bank of experiences than I had to rely on when I started writing Iberia...His adventures far exceeded mine in both width and depth..." -- James A. Michener, author of Iberia: Spanish Travels and Reflections

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About Gerry Dawes  

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

 In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés. ". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
Mr. Dawes is currently working on a reality television series  
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

Gerry Dawes can be reached at

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