When I had the opportunity to catch up with Chef Oscar Amador Edo for our interview, he had heard the news that his hard-earned restaurant, EDO Tapas and Wine, had been nominated as a James Beard Semi-Finalist. However, Chef Oscar’s yo-yo journey to that glory-filled moment could easily be the fodder for the next hit show about restaurant life for Netflix or HBO. Growing up in a small town adjacent to Barcelona, Edo remembers his early affinity for Catalonia’s rich culinary traditions.
Chef offered, ‘I grew up in a small town near Barcelona near the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea around fresh seafood markets. I remember going with my mom to buy fresh fish every day. Everyone in my family cooked; my mom and aunts were great cooks. My sister, who is now an interior designer, helped out at the first restaurant I opened when I was 22. Catalonia has amazing cooking traditions. Each region has its own ways of combining land and sea together on a plate. We also have a great variety of vegetables and fruits, lots of different types of mushrooms from the hills that you can’t get anywhere else, and big leeks we eat with romesco sauce. Being so close to France, there is big cheese culture, of course.’
With culinary school (Hofmann BCN Chef School) and stages at prestigious, three Michelin star restaurants El Bulli and El Racó de Can Fabes, Chef Oscar successfully owned and operated three venues–Ajo Negro, TapeArt, and A Mano for over a decade in Barcelona.
Despite his incredible success, Edo, charmed by his many trips to California and Las Vegas, decided to take the proverbial professional plunge. Leaving his hard-won reputation and excelling restaurants on the table, Edo and his wife picked up and relocated to the ever-growing, hot-food destination of ‘Sin City,’ Las Vegas.
Anyone who’s ever moved countries can attest, the status achieved back home doesn’t easily transfer to your new environment. Despite Edo’s extensive experience and success back in Barcelona as a high-end chef and restaurateur accustomed to creating tasting menus of Michelin-level excellence, he had never worked in a U.S. kitchen and did not know its distinct ‘system.’ It took a while for anyone to take a gamble on him.
Oscar was eventually hired at the prestigious Le Cirque. However, it did not take long for him to realize this was not where he wanted to grow his state-side trajectory. Chef offered, ‘It was just not a good fit for me. At the end of the day, I just felt like a number.’
Resigning from his position at Le Cirque six months after he started, Edo felt disillusioned; the dream he had envisioned unfolding in Las Vegas seemed a million miles away. With five kids and a wife to support, there was also the added pressure of needing to bring home the proverbial bacon. Chef shares his unpredictable pivot, ‘After Le Cirque; I was self-employed for many years, so, it was hard. I decided to open a food truck. We used to make some nice sandwiches. I opened it with my excellent partner Roberto Liendo. We invested in the food truck and started the business, which was good. We started doing a lot of events. I met a lot of chefs and made a lot of contacts. And then, because of the food truck, we found other investors to open up our first restaurant EDO.’
Chef Oscar offered, ‘Working in the food truck was probably the hardest job of my life.The great takeaway, however, shared Oscar, was the satisfaction of standing for what you want, moving forward at any cost, and having doors of opportunity open. Edo shared, ‘I feel like I had to take that big step back to move forward.’
With Edo and business partner Liendo having recently opened their second venue Anima (also in L.V. and offering a charcuterie, seafood counter, and cocktail bar), Chef Oscar is in the ‘sweet-spot’ of his career. Chef Oscar is at long last back in the ‘sweet spot,’ of his career. With two successful venues as the talk of the (off-the-strip) town, Oscar can focus on what he loves most, offering his guests the most exceptional and diverse tapas and Catalonian cuisine, layered with Japanese, Moroccan, French, Italian, and South American techniques and influences. Chefs Oscar shared, ‘We want to offer something modern with our food and not be so attached to anything. Located on Chinatown’s edge in Las Vegas, people are more open to experiencing this kind of food.’
EDO, having survived the immense challenges of the pandemic due to what Chef Oscar credits as having a small venue, having not been in debt before, and having assistance from the government to help them get through, now makes 80% of its revenue from its popular tasting menu.
With the recent financial stress hitting especially smaller venues due to ever-squeezing inflation, Chef Oscar highlighted the great help his CW Sales Rep. Anthony Angotta has been to support his business, ‘Anthony is doing such a great job. He really takes care of us in terms of pricing. Everything is super expensive right now. Our percentages are very low, so we always need to find the best prices to keep going, or we could go down fast. So his help has been really important and appreciated.’
Chef Edo comments on how good it feels to have overcome so many obstacles and be where he is now,’ I always talk with my partner Robert about when we first got the venue location in Chinatown. It was so small. It was like a hole in the wall. I remember us looking at each other and saying, ‘Do you really think this is going to work?’ And then I say, ‘I’m going to make it work.’ Robert looked around the empty space at the time, and he said, this is going to be a really nice place. He pointed around, saying, ‘One day people are going to wait in line to eat here.’
I’m very proud of what we have created. Now the big hotels are sending tourists over here because of our reputation, and Robert was right. People are happy to wait to eat at our little location, which is one of the reasons we opened our second place, Anima. From all of this hard work, things are growing very nicely.’