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Ferran Adrià - Final 7 Years of elBulli Recipes Available

Ferran Adrià - Final 7 Years of elBulli Recipes Available


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Ferran Adrià and his English-language publisher, Phaidon Press, announced this morning the forthcoming publication of a massive new seven-volume illustrated catalogue of every recipe created at his revolutionary restaurant from 2005 through the establishment's closing in the summer of 2011 — more than 750 of them in all. Adrià, who is in New York for several events (including this Monday's summit of the Basque Culinary Center's International Advisory Board at Stone Barns), made the announcement a short time ago at a press conference held at the Tasting Table Test Kitchen and Dining Room in SoHo.

The books, packaged in an acrylic slipcase — the set will look spiffy on your (reinforced) bookshelf next to Nathan Myhrvold's similarly weighty five-volume, acrylic-slipcased Modernist Cuisine tomes — will number 2,720 pages, with 1,400 color photographs, and sell for $625. Publication is scheduled for March of 2014.

Adrià has long been assiduous — obsessive, even — about documenting every aspect of elBulli's development, Beginning in 2002, Adrià, along with his brother, Albert, and his longtime elBulli partner, Juli Soler, produced a series of six earlier gigantic volumes, featuring images of every dish created at the restaurant from 1983 (the year Adrià came to work as an apprentice at elBulli on leave from a stint in the Spanish navy) until 2005, with recipes available separately on CDs. Then the project stalled for various reasons, not least because elBulli got "discovered" internationally around that time, with all the attendant demands on the creative staff's time and attention.

The new set picks up the thread. (The 2005 volume of the new series contains the same dishes as the corresponding earlier one, but the book has been completely redesigned, and this time the photographs and recipes are united.) The recipes fill the first six volumes. According to Phaidon, the seventh, titled Evolutionary Analysis, "focuses on the creative evolution of the restaurant, tracking key discoveries and products, and examining the influences and creative methods that were prominent during each of elBulli's seasons."

According to a Phaidon spokesman, "Ferran really sees these volumes as an opportunity to share his creative process with the rest of the world. He hopes they will provide a new way to codify and examine cuisine, allow the creative legacy of elBulli to continue, and inspire future generations of chefs to continue to innovate."


ɼreativity is not a game, it's a serious business'

So says Ferran Adrià, co-head chef of the best restaurant in the world. And what a business. Open only for six months a year, there are two million contenders for the 8,000 seats available. After 17 years of salivating about it, Jay Rayner finally fulfills the dream – to meet the man and eat at elBulli

· Read more from Jay Rayner on meeting Adrià and let us know what you think on the blog

In the end securing a table at the best restaurant in the world was pretty straightforward. All I had to do was decide at the age of 15 to become a journalist, then pursue that career with single-minded determination for the next 17 years, until some one had the ludicrous notion of appointing me restaurant critic, cling to the job with limpet-like commitment for the best part of a decade so that I was still in post when, praise be, chef of said restaurant was about to publish a book and was keen to talk to a newspaper about it. Though even then the table wasn't guaranteed. They weren't going to allow me to sit down to eat until I argued that the piece would make no sense unless I had experienced the intense theatricals and dramatics, the mouth fireworks and tongue gymnastics, the long-lauded wizardry and madness and flavour games for which elBulli was famous, all for myself.

Even allowing for that last-minute bout of international negotiations – Ban Ki-moon would have been proud – my method of getting to eat at Ferran Adrià's restaurant in northern Spain really does make more sense than the alternative. There are just 52 seats at elBulli and it is open for only six months of the year, from spring until autumn. In short there are just 8,000 seats available in any 12-month period. These days, for those 8,000 seats, they receive two million requests, a dam burst of desperate, pleading, hungry, saliva-flecked emails fired off at the start of the season, upon which Adrià's staff must stand in judgment.

The interest in elBulli and Adrià may seem at times cultish, verging on the messianic, but in the feverish world of high-end gastronomy, where the pursuit of the next transcendent mouth experience is an end in itself, it does make a warped kind of sense. Since the late 1980s, when Adrià and his team first started pushing the boundaries of food and cooking at their isolated restaurant in the mountains a two-hour drive north of Barcelona, they have never stood still. First they became famous for replacing sauces with foams and for presenting flavours through the medium of warm jellies. As those ideas spread about the world, becoming clichés, they moved on, 'cooking' ingredients in liquid nitrogen or deconstructing famous dishes so that all you could do as you ate them was laugh. Others would be left behind scrabbling to catch up, while Adrià forged ahead. As he would eventually say to me, 'The Bulli is always changing. The Bulli of today is not the Bulli of yesterday.' Just its name, the Spanish for bulldog, has become synonymous with revolution, innovation and – if you really do have an overly developed interest in your dinner – the promise of gustatory rapture and bliss.

It's a hell of a lot to live up to. Indeed, the level of interest causes the restaurant problems. For the past three years it has been voted the best in the world, in The World's 50 Best Restaurants list, run by Restaurant magazine. Panels of judges covering different regions of the world are asked to name their top five, which must be made up of establishments in their region and outside it. The only other rule is that they must have eaten in the nominated restaurants within the past 18 months. So how, furious critics asked when elBulli was yet again named the best in the world earlier this year, can it keep coming out on top when it is almost impossible to get a table?

Even as the chair of the British panel I cannot explain it nominations are kept secret. But I can say this. Having eaten there, when it comes to drawing up my own nominations next year, elBulli will be right at the top. My meal there was quite simply the best of my life – the most intriguing, the most entertaining, the most delicious – which is a staggering achievement for a place hyped beyond all bounds of sense or logic. I went nursing a fear that I would be disappointed. I left all those fears by a ragged Catalan beach.

All of which makes me hugely grateful for the publication of A Day at elBulli, the book which made my visit possible. There have been elBulli books before, of course, but those are less volumes to be read than catalogues to which one might refer. Assuming what you needed to know was exactly what elBulli was doing with porcini flavoured 'caviar' in 2003. Those huge, £100-plus-a-pop titles, like the exhaustive website, are a complete record of every single dish ever created at elBulli: their ingredients, their plating, their context. And there are many, many hundreds of them. They mark the place out less as restaurant and more as a living museum. Which makes Ferran Adrià less chef than curator. Or, perhaps, artist in residence (last year he was invited to create a central work for the Documenta contemporary art exhibition in Germany, a kind of art Olympics held every five years.)

A Day at elBulli: An Insight into the Ideas, Methods and Creativity of Ferran Adria is a very different kind of book. This one genuinely might sit on a coffee table, and you don't have to be a culinary propellerhead to enjoy it. It does what it says on the cover, but in a very elBulli kind of way. Over 20,000 photographs were taken, and more than 1,200 have found their way inside. From sunrise over the hidden cove it sits upon and the surf lapping at the shore, through Adrià's morning routine to the head-bowed, monk-like devotion of the 50 or so cooks and their mis-en-place, the invention of dishes, the drawing-up of menus, the opening of the gates, the dinner service and the clean-down to the final turning of the key in the lock, everything is here. It is detailed and intense. It is knowingly arty. It puts the phwoar into gastro-porn.

The irony is, of course, that the chef is such a celebrated figure, in his native Spain such a national hero, that the routine the title suggests is now a rare luxury. Initially we asked that we be allowed to spend a day with Adrià. I imagined sipping thimbles of hot black coffee with him as the sun rose and then following him through the studious process of providing diners with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But that wasn't going to happen. Too busy. Too many people to talk to. Too many things to consult upon. Instead we would be allowed just a few hours, and so I drew up a plan: how long we would conduct a formal interview, some time in the kitchen, a conversation about the creation of dishes. What I hadn't bargained with was the chaotic, ebullient, performer that is Adrià himself. I made plans and the moment we met every single one was thrown out the window.

I should have seen it coming. For the past three years, at the end of The World's 50 Best Restaurants event in London, Adrià has been invited to
make a speech, and it has always been a drawn-out affair. His sentences are long and complex, and loop around on each other in a way that leaves poor translators rushing to catch up. His arms rise and fall with every clause and noun, and he is never done until he has invited every other Spanish chef in the room up on to the stage to link arms and sing 'We are the World'. Or something like that. By that point the translator is usually sobbing in the corner. It is not the highlight of the night, but it is very Adrià.

And that's exactly what I get when we meet, on the terrace at elBulli: something rambling and passionate and hard to keep up with. The food served here may be decidedly modernist, looking to the future rather than the past, but the space in which it is served is homely, a hacienda-style lodge of rough-hewn stone and gnarled black beams and whitewashed stone shelves stacked with what look like old family portraits in tarnished frames. Adrià suits the space. There is nothing sleek or, heaven forfend, hip about him. He is a short, stocky man of middle years, with a mop of curly hair which he probably has to be reminded to get cut now and again. He listens intently to me as the translator explains my plan – the set-piece interview, the tour of the kitchens, the exposition – nods at every point, says that's a great idea but then announces, a finger raised. 'But first I must explain to you the Bulli.'

And we are off. We never sit down at all. Instead the interview is conducted entirely on the run. First he insists on describing the history, how it was opened in 1961 as a beach cafe and only slowly developed into a restaurant, the Michelin stars that it won and lost, until he arrived after military service in 1983, becoming its head chef a year later. In those days, he says, elBulli was in thrall to the ways of nouvelle cuisine, the movement which, in its purest form, eschewed the butter and cream of the Escoffier generation in favour of lighter, brighter, sharper flavours. With its love of fiddly curls of avocado and kiwi and its tiny portions it was eventually much mocked and pilloried, I say. He shrugs. 'Those who come up with something new are always criticised.' He describes himself as a student of nouvelle cuisine, says it is what 90 per cent of gastronomic restaurants are practising today.

He picks up a copy of elBulli: 1983 to 1993. It is stuffed with pictures of the food they were serving then, bright colour plates full of scarlets and oranges dishes of red mullet with tiny cubes of aubergine or fiddly dice of tomato with teeny slivers of meat served rare. There are dishes in there which are exact copies of others by the big gastronomic names of the day like Georges Blanc or Mark Haeberlin, whose food Adrià had studied. Slowly, he says, they decided to attempt a site-specific kind of nouvelle cuisine, something which suited Spain in particular. He shows me a picture of a dish which he says is based on gazpacho, the various elements served dry around the plate rather than as a soup.

Trying to sound clever I ask if that is one of his first deconstructions, the essentials of a dish taken apart and reconfigured so that you might consider it anew. He looks intensely at me, as if I am a promising but lazy student who has let myself down. 'No, no. This is an adaptation. With an adaptation you will always see the differences.' With a deconstruction it is less immediately obvious. Right.

He picks up another volume and shows me a flow chart. It is a timeline of elBulli's food and its developments. Here, in the late 1980s, is where they started working on adaptations. Here, in the early 1990s, the deconstructions come in. Next, the foams and the jellies and so on. This, he says, is what I must understand. 'The mid-90s is when we started to create a new language.'

Most leading chefs I have interviewed talk at some point about the land and nature's bounty. They reference some eye-moistening experience at their mother's apron strings. Not Adrià. The words he uses most are 'discourse' and 'language', 'creativity' and 'innovation'.

'The Bulli is about creativity,' he says, a finger raised. 'If you don't understand this you don't understand the Bulli.' And ' creativity is a very fucked-up issue. It's not a game. It's not about playing around. It's a serious business.' For six months of the year, while the restaurant is closed, Adrià retreats with his brother Albert, the pastry chef, and his key lieutenants, to a workshop in Barcelona – the Taller – to develop the menu for the next season. But these are never ingredient-led affairs. It is never about anything so banal as what they can do that's new with duck or seaweed or chocolate. It's all about method. 'To develop a new language you need a new concept, a technique, an elaboration.'

'Who came up with beating three eggs and making an omelette,' he says, ' that's a new elaboration, a new technique.' The same is true, he
says, with the mixing of flour with water to make pastry, to make dough, which in turn lead to the creation of thousands of new dishes. 'Our dream is to be able to make new kinds of pastry or omelettes which in turn lead to new dishes.' To do this, over the years they have begged, borrowed and stolen. They have adopted Japanese techniques for making warm jellies from seaweed extracts (rather than from animal-based gelatins which melt just above room temperature). They have plundered industrial food processes, of the sort used to make the little jellies of pimento in the middle of stuffed olives, or mass-market emulsifiers of the kind used in salad dressing to make foams stay stiff. Sometimes they have built whole riffs around the art of happy accidents. They freeze-dry things. They vacuum-pack. They use pipettes and distillers. 'The more unique a language you create the fewer people understand it,' he says. 'For many people coming to the Bulli for the first time, it's like being spoken to in Japanese.' But here is what's changed, he says. Some years ago people eating there were simply baffled or dismayed by what they were being served. 'Now the people who come here are willing to be open to the experience.'

And yet, he says, the restaurant is misunderstood. People assume it's all about the science, that it's whizz bang and pointy headed. I suggest he complains too much. After all isn't that his fault for constantly banging on about the need to innovate? He agrees that he is partly to blame, and mentions a photograph of him and Heston Blumenthal of the Bulli-esque Fat Duck – the two are firm friends – surrounded by clouds of vapour from liquid nitrogen. 'The science issue is a monster we must kill.'

What he says we all must understand is that his kitchen is still a kitchen. 'There are 70 people working at elBulli. It is very artisanal.' And he leads me into it. There is no door the front of house and kitchen flow into each other organically, but where the dining room is classical Spanish, the kitchen is full of clean, sharp lines and flat surfaces. It is a kitchen as imagined by James Bond designer Ken Adam. At the back is an acre of plate-glass window looking out on to the ragged rust-coloured rock of the cliff face. In front of that are three long workbenches. The middle one is surrounded by at least a dozen young cooks, heads bowed over tiny, intricate preparation works. They stand there for hours, are there mid-afternoon and still there all the way through the dinner service. Fewer than a dozen of the kitchen staff are paid to work at elBulli. The rest – like our own Jason Atherton of Maze one year – come here simply for the experience and to work for free.

The bench on the right, he tells me, is where new dishes are being developed. Although a lot of menu development takes place off-season they open each season with the previous year's dishes, slowly but surely replacing them with new ones, those in turn being replaced. In all there are three menus a year. 'A few dishes stay on all year. Others are seasonal or involve rare ingredients so only stay on for a short while.' Next to us is a tiny pan containing a lightly steaming cloudy jelly with what looks like two chickpeas in it. 'When they cook chickpeas in the market the stock at the end turns into a jelly.' I am invited to try one of the chickpeas. It tastes as I expect at first, and then a nuttiness comes in. 'They are fresh hazelnuts,' the young cook next to me says, with a grin. 'This is not a finished dish,' Adrià says. 'It is an idea.'

As we talk another cook hands him a thin, crisp disc of dried fig, with a smear of something flavoured with vanilla and salt. 'We are looking to create a snack,' he tells me. He nibbles, looks off into a distant corner and then issues a command. Try something else with it. Now he's given a little crisp made of dried, toasted rice. 'This is what you get at the bottom of a paella pan when it starts to stick. We are thinking of making something with it.' There is a flat red disc, of concentrated dehydrated tomato, like a communion wafer, and then a tiny aubergine that has somehow been manufactured to look like an olive. Everything here in the low-lit kitchen is tiny, thimble sized, but in the mouth they clatter around with flavour.

'Cooking is about how things taste,' he says. 'Obviously we use technology but that's not what matters. What matters is that you, the eater, finds it magical. It's an experience between the creator and the eater.' I ask him why he has decided to publish this book. 'I did this because I wanted to let people who couldn't get here visualise what it's about.' He admits that he could sell seats in his restaurant on eBay for thousands of Euros a time, that he could have 25 elBullis around the world and make a mint. But he doesn't. Instead there is just this one and, despite charging €200 for the menu per head, excluding drinks, it operates at a loss. It is all the other businesses – the consultancies with hotels, the more casual restaurants, his work with mass-market food producers and, yes, the books – which make the money. So is he now more of a communicator than a cook? He shakes his head. 'No, above all I'm a cook.' But more people consume his food by reading about it than eating it. 'It's the only thing I can't fix. It's a real shame. We're not proud of it.'

It is heading towards six o'clock and I can feel the mood changing in the kitchen. From a sense of quiet industry, the pace has picked up. In the dining room, tablecloths are being ironed, cutlery laid. Adrià says it is time for him to crack on and for me to go. He has issued orders. I am not simply allowed to stay here until dinner. El Bulli sits on a cove a 20-minute drive along a mountain road of hairpin bends from the tourist resort of Roses. Adrià has ordered me to go back down there to my hotel, to freshen up, change and then come back. He has also asked that I do not drive myself back. 'You need time to relax, to swap from interviewer to diner.' I like taking orders from Adrià. I do as I am told.

When it was over, when the last of the 42 (tiny) items we were served had been cleared away and we had drunk our espresso and finished raiding the cigar humidor containing only handmade chocolates and been given our individual menus, what stayed with me was the attention to detail. While for the diners it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the staff have to do it every single night. And yet there is nothing jaded or casual about it. They not only accept, but embrace the notion of the singular event. Waiters happily take photographs of diners posing next to the elBulli sign outside. Every guest is led into the kitchen to meet Adrià and to have their photograph taken with him, and he falls into position next to them with ease. Enquiries have been made beforehand over allergies or dislikes so every table can be told, truthfully, that the menu that evening has been tailored to them (though, in truth, there is no choice. Only one tasting menu is served and most people get exactly the same dishes.)

It begins with a hollow sphere of ice, containing meltwater, to be sucked through a hollowed-out vanilla pod. The effect lies not just in the refreshing water with a hint of vanilla, but in the visual: the miraculous ball of ice which forces you to think of mountain air. Next, a cocktail of lemon and grappa and yoghurt, but served as a cream with a sugared surface as a very adult crème brûlée. And alongside this, tiny, dolls'-house tangerine segments, manufactured God knows how, which burst under the slightest tongue pressure. We are brought what looks like an ostrich egg, gently steaming with icy vapour. It is broken at the table. It feels in the mouth like an unsweetened white chocolate but tastes of very mellow coconut, which we are to dust with Indian spices.

After an orchid flower, whose leaves have been made from a brittle paste of passion fruit, we are presented with a children's tea party of snacks: intense discs of parmesan, dark bitter-chocolate pyramids flavoured with pine nut, powerful crisps of tomato. And then, best of all, plump olives laid on a spoon before us.

They are the colour and shape of olives but glisten and shudder. We put them in our mouths. It is the first example this evening of elBulli's current favourite technique – spherification – a liquid, purée or gel set within a tight membrane so that in the mouth it bursts releasing a rush of flavour, in this case the pure essence of olive. It works by dropping a ball of the purée into a setting agent, hence the sphere. They also do this with bright, milky mozzarella. But at elBulli they have worked out how to create shapes with it: tiny triangles of 'pesto' ravioli, say, or a long thin tube flavoured with miso and ponzu to accompany a razor clam. The latter also speaks of another recurring them, which is Japanese flavours and spicings. It is a curiously Asian meal.

It is also full of whimsy. There is candyfloss encasing beautiful fronds of perfumed wild flowers. There is a set of odd-looking mouthfuls on a plate that, eaten together, taste exactly like spaghetti carbonara. We are presented with a single 'oyster leaf' holding a bead of shallot vinegar, and blow me, if the leaf doesn't taste exactly like an oyster. My companion is Stephen Harris, the chef from the Michelin-starred Sportsman pub near Whitstable. He announces he is going to find a supply of oyster leaves the moment he gets home. We have braised tomatoes injected with olive oil. Stephen spears one with a fork and it sprays juice across the table. 'Well,' he says, gleefully, ' if you're going to serve me fabulously weird shit like this, that sort of thing is bound to happen.'

There is a single strawberry braised in gin and gnocchi made from jellified egg yolk, and a deconstructed walnut, endive and Roquefort salad. Most strikingly there is very little meat. There is a single cylinder of intensely savoury veal tendon, long braised unto jelly and filling the mouth with the essence of baby cow, and another plate dressed with tiny shards of suckling pig and alongside it a ham consommé bobbing with cubes of melon. But that is almost it on the animal-protein front. Few of the dishes are complex. They rarely attempt to make an impact through weird unimagined flavour pairings. It's about intensity and delivery.

Does everything work? No, not entirely, and it's the weirdest that fail most. We are served a plate of a very sour Colombian fruit with the texture of mango that is then dressed with a pile of 'tagliatelle' made from frozen foie-gras fat. It has a curious, even unpleasant, cheesy back taste. There is another dish of a coconut cream and jelly which tastes of not very much at all. But those two duds – and there were only two – were more than can-celled out by the highs. Best of all: a crisp wafer of bitter chocolate laid with a game mousse – an oddly established combination these days – the flavour of which just went on and on. Stephen and I stared at each other across the table, our lips closed, and then silently began giggling, at a shared, if wistful joke.

And all of this at a beautifully steady pace, as if a metronome were setting the rhythm of our meal. We were never without something to eat for more than a couple of minutes. We felt looked after, cared for, nurtured. The food we had been served may well have been at the very cutting edge, but the effect it achieved spoke to the eternal verities and virtues of great restaurants. And if that makes it sound like dinner at elBulli had sent me off on one, propelled me towards the pseuds'-corner realms of adolescent poetry and lovesick devotion, well, guilty as charged. What can I tell you? I'd had a good dinner.

I do not get to speak to Adrià again that evening. He is too busy seeing out the performances for the other diners who started later than us, but I keep thinking about something he had said that afternoon. 'I don't cook for other people,' he told me. 'I cook for myself.' It is, he says, all about happiness, his own and that of his diners. 'The happiness is the challenge which pushes us forward. It would be quite sad if we couldn't make people happy.' As our cab navigates the hairpins at frightening speed, I sit back in my seat, a picture of calm, and I conclude that I am very happy indeed. Ferran Adrià's work for the day is done.

· Read more from Jay Rayner on meeting Adrià and let us know what you think on the blog


ElBulli 2005–2011 Ferran Adrià, Juli Soler, Albert Adrià

elBulli 2005-2011 is the catalogue raisonné of elBulli, which was widely regarded as the world's best restaurant until its closure in 2011. Having held three Michelin stars from 1997 to 2011, and regularly voted "Best Restaurant in the World" by a panel of 500 industry professionals, elBulli was at the forefront of the restaurant scene from when Ferran Adrià became sole head chef in 1987. The restaurant only opened for six months every year in order that the rest of the year could be spent developing a completely new menu for each season. Many hours of development work went into the creation of each spectacular dish at the purpose-built elBulli workshop in Barcelona, and the gastronomic innovations of the creative team have influenced restaurants and chefs around the world.

elBulli 2005-2011 is made up of seven volumes, one for each season that the restaurant was open between 2005 and 2011. Each volume starts with a catalogue of photographs of every dish that was served at the restaurant during that year and finishes with detailed recipes explaining how to make every component. There are also notes on hard-to-find ingredients, new techniques, finishing and presentation. The recipes are divided by course, following the unique structure of the elBulli menu: cocktails, snacks, tapas, pre-desserts, desserts and morphings.

The final volume, Evolutionary Analysis, focuses on the creative evolution of the restaurant, key discoveries, produce and analysis of the influences and creative methods that were prominent during each season. Chapters will cover new products, techniques and technologies on a year-to-year basis, looking in depth at how all of the processes combined to continually drive the cuisine at elBulli forward.

Beautifully presented in an elegant Perspex slipcase, these comprehensive volumes allow unprecedented access to the genius of Ferran Adrià and the creativity that made elBulli legendary. An essential addition to the shelves of anyone interested in modern gastronomy, this is the last chance to uncover the secrets of the world's most-innovative kitchen, now closed forever.

Specifications:

  • Format: 7 Volume, Hardback
  • Size: 315 x 240 mm (12 3/8 x 9 1/2 in)
  • Pages: 2720 pp
  • Illustrations: 1400 illustrations
  • ISBN: 9780714865485

Ferran Adrià joined the staff of elBulli in 1984 and rapidly progressed to become head chef. Famous for his pioneering culinary techniques, he has been applauded - and imitated - around the world, and won three Michelin stars for elBulli, along with many other accolades. Since elBulli's closure in 2011, Ferran has been lecturing around the world and developing the elBullifoundation, a culinary academy and think tank, on the site of the former restaurant. The foundation is due to open in 2015.

Juli Soler worked in the dining rooms of many restaurants in Spain before joining elBulli as restaurant manager in 1981. As well as hiring Ferran Adrià, he brought the front of house service to a standard never before seen in Spain. He is also a great authority on wine.

Albert Adrià joined elBulli in 1985 and quickly developed a passion for pastry. He was creative director of the elBulli workshop, as well as being responsible for the sweet world. Since the closure of elBulli in 2011, Albert has gone on to open two new venues in Barcelona Tickets, a tapas bar and restaurant, and 41°, a cocktail bar, both to great acclaim.

"elBulli 2005 – 2011 continues Ferran’s impressive, contemporary legacy. These volumes are not about who you are or what you cook – this is about understanding a new theory of cooking and cuisine. No one has ever come close to accomplishing what he has done for this industry. A must for any passionate cook." —Daniel Bouloud, Chef and Owner, The Dinex Group

"elBulli 2005 – 2011 is an inspiration to cooks to continually question the status quo." —David Chang, Chef and Founder, Momofuku

"The catalogue raisonné digs into some of elBulli’s most influential years, charting its groundbreaking techniques and presentations. Cerebral stuff, for sure, but we’d expect no less from a man who once dreamed about making hot ice cream." —Bon Appetit

"One of the most hotly anticipated cookbooks of 2014." —Good Morning America

"One hundred years from now, cooking will not be understood without the presence of Ferran Adriá. This astonishing collection of ideas, flavors, and design is a window into one of the world’s most creative minds and reveals the legacy that Ferran and the elBulli team leave behind in the worlds of cuisine and art." —Jose Andres, Chef and Restaurateur, Think Food Group

"Monumental. For many chefs, an 18–kilogram recipe compendium would document a life’s work. In Mr. Adriá’s case, it is merely a slice." —The Economist

"It’s a rare master magician who will willingly part the curtain." —Forbes Life

"Ferran Adriá’s elBulli changed the food world. Then it closed. But Adriá has found a way to bring back epic dishes." —Food & Wine

"An incredible collection of recipes and techniques from a team that forever changed the way I look at food. Insanely inspiring." —Sean Brock, Executive Chef, Husk, McCrady's and Minero, and author of the bestselling book Heritage


Sinopsis de EL BULLI 2005 - 2011 (INGLES - 7 VOLUMENES)

The first book to record elBulli’s final and most creative years.
Over 2,500 pages drawn from the meticulously documented personal archives of Ferran Adrià.
Seven volumes, presented in a custom slipcase, bring elBulli to life and provide the only way to experience what is still considered to be the most innovative restaurant in the world.
Closely examines the techniques and technologies that helped the elBulli team redefine the course of contemporary gastronomy.
Captures a vital moment in culinary history when Ferran shifted the way we codify cuisine and think about the creative process.
The first six volumes contain over 700 recipes created from 2005–2011, each with a stunning photograph.
The seventh volume provides an evolutionary analysis of the restaurant, outlining Ferran’s creative process and allowing readers to cross reference recipes by season, technique and technology.

elBulli 2005-2011
presents for the first time the collection of dishes from the iconic elBulli in Roses, Spain, during its final years as a restaurant. Voted ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ five times, elBulli was the world’s most sought-after restaurant and was legendary for the gastronomic innovations of its head chef, Ferran Adrià.

Every year the menu was completely different, and over a hundred brand new dishes were developed by the creative team at the elBulli workshop in Barcelona. The dishes were created over a six-month period using innovative techniques and concepts that pushed the boundaries of high-end restaurant cuisine. A catalogue of the restaurant’s remarkable creative evolution during its final years, elBulli 2005-2011 provides detailed recipes and colour photographs for each new dish, as well as analysis of the creative methods and explanations of new techniques.


Meet Ferran Adria & Enter Our elBulli-Inspired Dinner Giveaway!

Ferran Adria is widely recognized as the greatest chef in the world. He led Spain’s legendary elBulli restaurant to earn three Michelin stars and win the title of the World’s Best Restaurant a record five times, before shuttering elBulli in 2011. Now, he’s transforming the space into the elBullifoundation, a think tank for unprecedented culinary creativity.

Ferran’s new seven-volume book elBulli 2005-2011 chronicles the final years of the restaurant, offering a glimpse into the inner workings of the famously innovative kitchen. With more than 750 recipes and detailed explanations of techniques, finishing and presentation, it’s a must-have for lovers of modern gastronomy. That’s why we jumped at the opportunity to help Ferran celebrate the release of the cookbook with a book signing in Chicago and a private dinner giveaway inspired by elBulli- 2005-2011 — scroll to the bottom of this post for details on both! Finally, we were thrilled and honored to talk to the chef all about his new book and upcoming plans for the elBullifoundation in this exclusive interview for Taste. Read on!

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

I started in the kitchen by accident. At 17, I went to wash dishes in a hotel in Castelldefels to earn money to pay for a trip to Ibiza. My intention wasn’t to be a cook, but just to go on vacation. But there, the chef (who was Miquel Moy), aroused my interest in cooking. I saw it was a wonderful discipline, and I soon realized that I wanted to dedicate my life to it.

You joined elBulli in 1984 and quickly rose to head chef. To what do you credit your success?

It was a series of events that contributed to my promotion. However, why me and not another? I guess because from the day I stepped into elBulli, I strove to learn and be better every day professionally, showing that I had the qualities to fill the position of head chef. [ElBulli founders] Mr. and Mrs. Schilling and [Restaurant Manager] Juli Soler realized my professional potential and bet on me.

You’ve described your food as deconstructivist rather than molecular gastronomy. What’s the distinction, and why is it important to you?

I also haven’t really described it as deconstructivist. One of the terms that I like to define our cuisine as is techno-emotional. I don’t like the term molecular because cuisine is cuisine, not science. What we have is a dialogue with science to learn and find solutions to problems. To know the why of things. But those who cook are cooks, not scientists.

ElBulli closed in 2011, so this is the last book to come out of the restaurant. How would you describe the evolution of the food/menu?

ElBulli as a restaurant has had a long walk and history. From the beginning — more than 50 years before the last year, 2011, when we closed — elBulli experienced a lot of very important moments. We could say that the great revolution of elBulli’s cuisine emerged in the 󈨞s, when we definitively committed ourselves to pursuing creativity and to elBulli becoming an atypical restaurant, where the main goal was creativity. The menu evolution went parallel to our intention to explore the limits of the kitchen, trying to find our own limits. At the end, the last restaurant menu consisted of 45 different passes (dishes) however, when I started my career at elBulli the meal usually consisted of, at most, five passes. The change was gradual and natural, but if we look with some perspective at all of the years, we realize the extent of the evolution we experienced.

Tell us about the recipes in the book. What is a successful dish to you?

In the book you will find all the recipes we made between 2005 and 2011. In total, there are over 700! All of them are important. Naturally, there are some that have had more prominence, but each brought something to our kitchen and therefore was worthy of being part of the catalog.

The importance of the book is that, apart from containing the recipes, the reader will understand the why of each of them and what they contributed to our kitchen. You will know our kitchen at the level of creative thinking, which, ultimately, is what matters.

Can you describe your creative process for developing a dish?

Well, explaining the creative process is a lengthy task. We would need hours and many papers to be able to explain it correctly.

The creative process consists of some methods. Of these, it may be that in the creative process a plate uses just one or many at once. The creation of one plate can be very different from another there is no general rule or methodology.

What achievement are you most proud of from the final years of elBulli? Any specific discoveries?

There are several, but the spherification technique, the air, and the different applications from the obulato [a tasteless edible film] are the techniques that are the best and most successfully reproduced by some of our colleagues.

Are there any dishes you tried that didn’t work?

Lots of them. More than the number of recipes in the catalog.

What was your reaction to being called the best chef in the world?

Happiness, not only for me, but also for all the people who supported us and believed in us and helped us to get as far as we did.

Why did you decide to close the restaurant?

I did not close it. I have transformed it into the elBulliFoundation.

During the whole life of the restaurant we were looking for ways to avoid falling into monotony and to encourage creativity. Close six months, do just one service a day, the creation of elBulli Taller [workshop], etc… We needed another transformation to continue cultivating creativity, so that’s why we decided to radically transform into the elBulliFoundation, with the aim of ensuring that creativity can be built and developed in an idyllic setting with all the necessary resources.

Tell us more about the elBulliFoundation. What are your hopes for the new center?

In the place where elBulli the restaurant was will be the epicenter of two of the three projects that the elBulliFoundation consists of. It will be elBulli1846 and elBulli DNA.

ElBulli1846 will be the exhibition center where we preserve the legacy of elBulli and explain its history, linked to the history of cooking, to anyone who wants to visit us.

ElBulliDNA will be the creative team who will work daily in Cala Montjoi facilities, in the same place where elBulli1846 is located. All the work generated will be available on the Internet daily.

Are you working on any other projects now?

We are working on the two projects outlined above, and the third project is the Bullipedia, where we are decoding the physical and creative culinary processes, and classifying and ordering all the other high Western cuisine, making it available in a digital format.

What are your favorite ingredients to work with?

Freedom, passion, effort and risk.

What developments are you most excited about in the culinary world today?

The speed with which information circulates and the synergies between the different countries and cultures.

You’ve pioneered a new movement of food as art. How do you make cuisine into theater and experience, and what makes it unique?

I’m a cook (chef) and I consider myself a cook (chef). There are experts in the art world who believe that our work can be considered as such. It won’t be me who places that value on it. Having said that, what is certain is that the goal of our cuisine is not to feed people, but to provoke emotions in them.

How have you seen the role of chefs in popular culture change over the past decade? Do you feel any additional responsibilities from when you first started out?

Now, chefs enjoy prestige among the population — this did not happen before. Of course we have responsibility. Our industry is a basis for the people’s welfare: we are what we eat, and chefs have a responsibility to try to bring our knowledge to society and help people eat in a better way around the world. When I say to eat better, it doesn’t mean to cook in a more attractive and nutritious way, but also to raise awareness that global food resources must be managed well. Never forget that we are in 2014 and there are still children in many countries who die of hunger.

How do you stay inspired in the kitchen?

I do nothing special it is just my passion. I do it as a vital necessity, not as an obligation.

What’s the most important tool to have in the kitchen?

For me, a pen and paper. This way I can always take notes of my ideas and not forget them.

What do you eat when you’re alone?

It depends on where I am and what I feel like at the time. Except peppers, I like everything.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?

I don’t know, if I had not been a cook I would have loved to be a professional footballer. My idol, when I was a kid, was Johan Cruyff…

Here’s a sneak peek at a recipe from the new book!

For the green pine cone oil

For the pine nut oil cream

For the skinned tender pine nuts

For the tender pine nut risotto

  • 60 g skinned tender pine nuts (previously prepared)
  • 50 g pine nut oil cream (previously prepared)
  • Salt

For the green pine cone oil

  • Chop the green pine cone into 2 cm chunks.
  • Cover with the corn oil and cook at 65°C for 2 hours.
  • Refrigerate for 24 hours to infuse.
  • Strain before use.

For the pine nut oil cream

  • Add the Xantana to the water and process with a hand-held blender until lump-free.
  • Add the pine nut oil a little at a time, emulsifying constantly with a hand-held blender.
  • Set aside.

For the skinned tender pine nuts

  • Peel the pine cones and split them open lengthways to obtain the pine nuts.
  • Open the shells and carefully take out the tender pine nut kernels without breaking them.
  • Make 15 g of skinned tender pine nuts per person.
  • Refrigerate.

For the tender pine nut risotto

  • Put the pine nuts in a pan.
  • Add the pine nut cream oil and heat to achieve a texture similar to that of a risotto.
  • Season with salt.

NB: This preparation will be made immediately before finishing and presentation.

Finish and presentation

  • Warm 4 soup plates.
  • Place the pine nut risotto in the middle of the plate covering the entire base.
  • Drizzle the risotto with 5 drops of green pine oil.
  • Place a 5 g spoon of sturgeon caviar on the right-hand side of the plate, in contact with the risotto.

Cutlery: Tapas spoon and fork.

How to eat: Alternate the risotto with the caviar without mixing.

Adapted from elBulli 2005-2011 by Ferran Adrià, Juli Soler, Albert Adrià. Phaidon Press, 2014, www.phaidon.com/elbulli


elBulli 2005-2011 Book Signing – Chicago

We’re excited to welcome Ferran into our Lincoln Park store in Chicago for an exclusive book signing and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the renowned chef in person. Chicago-area residents, mark your calendars for Friday, March 14, and call to reserve your ticket to the event today — find more details here!

elBulli-Inspired Dinner Giveaway

Williams-Sonoma has teamed up with Kitchit and Phaidon Press to give away private dinners inspired by elBulli 2005-2011 in four cities: Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Kitchit chefs will be preparing multi-course modernist dinners for winners and their friends in Williams-Sonoma stores. Enter for a chance to win by clicking on your city below:


Ferran Adrià - Final 7 Years of elBulli Recipes Available - Recipes

Home » Blog » News » Ferran Adria Records the Blueprint to elBulli’s Success

Though elBulli’s doors have been closed for more than two years, what happened inside those walls will live on forever. It was in that kitchen in Catalonia, Spain that Ferran Adria changed the culinary world forever. In an attempt to never repeat himself, he created innovative methods that fused the worlds of science and food firmly and eternally. Now he’s recorded elBulli’s journey to being a 3-Michelin-star superstardom in a manner befitting the man and the restaurant. Get his book here.

Chef Adria has created seven documentary-style books in total: one for each of the last seven years that elBulli was open (2005 to 2011). The true beauty is that these aren’t just cookbooks.

To be sure, all of the recipes that people swarmed elBulli to try are included throughout the pages, but Chef wanted to create a way to help people understand the food, not just cook it. To do that, he had to tell both his story and that of the restaurant.

Encased in a beautiful custom slipcase, these volumes document the journey of the most innovative, game-changing restaurant in culinary history, one step at a time. elBulli 2005-2011 will cost $625 and will feature over 750 recipes. The set will be available in March, 2014. UPDATE: elBulli 2005-2011 Now Available for Purchase at Amazon here


ElBulli 2005–2011 Ferran Adrià, Juli Soler, Albert Adrià

Price AUD$750.00 Price CAD$625.00 Price &euro525.00 Price £425.00 Price T625.00 Price USD$625.00

Gift options available at checkout

elBulli 2005-2011 is the catalogue raisonné of elBulli, which was widely regarded as the world's best restaurant until its closure in 2011. Having held three Michelin stars from 1997 to 2011, and regularly voted "Best Restaurant in the World" by a panel of 500 industry professionals, elBulli was at the forefront of the restaurant scene from when Ferran Adrià became sole head chef in 1987. The restaurant only opened for six months every year in order that the rest of the year could be spent developing a completely new menu for each season. Many hours of development work went into the creation of each spectacular dish at the purpose-built elBulli workshop in Barcelona, and the gastronomic innovations of the creative team have influenced restaurants and chefs around the world.

elBulli 2005-2011 is made up of seven volumes, one for each season that the restaurant was open between 2005 and 2011. Each volume starts with a catalogue of photographs of every dish that was served at the restaurant during that year and finishes with detailed recipes explaining how to make every component. There are also notes on hard-to-find ingredients, new techniques, finishing and presentation. The recipes are divided by course, following the unique structure of the elBulli menu: cocktails, snacks, tapas, pre-desserts, desserts and morphings.

The final volume, Evolutionary Analysis, focuses on the creative evolution of the restaurant, key discoveries, produce and analysis of the influences and creative methods that were prominent during each season. Chapters will cover new products, techniques and technologies on a year-to-year basis, looking in depth at how all of the processes combined to continually drive the cuisine at elBulli forward.

Beautifully presented in an elegant Perspex slipcase, these comprehensive volumes allow unprecedented access to the genius of Ferran Adrià and the creativity that made elBulli legendary. An essential addition to the shelves of anyone interested in modern gastronomy, this is the last chance to uncover the secrets of the world's most-innovative kitchen, now closed forever.

Specifications:

  • Format: 7 Volume, Hardback
  • Size: 315 x 240 mm (12 3/8 x 9 1/2 in)
  • Pages: 2720 pp
  • Illustrations: 1400 illustrations
  • ISBN: 9780714865485

Ferran Adrià joined the staff of elBulli in 1984 and rapidly progressed to become head chef. Famous for his pioneering culinary techniques, he has been applauded - and imitated - around the world, and won three Michelin stars for elBulli, along with many other accolades. Since elBulli's closure in 2011, Ferran has been lecturing around the world and developing the elBullifoundation, a culinary academy and think tank, on the site of the former restaurant. The foundation is due to open in 2015.

Juli Soler worked in the dining rooms of many restaurants in Spain before joining elBulli as restaurant manager in 1981. As well as hiring Ferran Adrià, he brought the front of house service to a standard never before seen in Spain. He is also a great authority on wine.

Albert Adrià joined elBulli in 1985 and quickly developed a passion for pastry. He was creative director of the elBulli workshop, as well as being responsible for the sweet world. Since the closure of elBulli in 2011, Albert has gone on to open two new venues in Barcelona Tickets, a tapas bar and restaurant, and 41°, a cocktail bar, both to great acclaim.

"elBulli 2005 – 2011 continues Ferran’s impressive, contemporary legacy. These volumes are not about who you are or what you cook – this is about understanding a new theory of cooking and cuisine. No one has ever come close to accomplishing what he has done for this industry. A must for any passionate cook." —Daniel Bouloud, Chef and Owner, The Dinex Group

"elBulli 2005 – 2011 is an inspiration to cooks to continually question the status quo." —David Chang, Chef and Founder, Momofuku

"The catalogue raisonné digs into some of elBulli’s most influential years, charting its groundbreaking techniques and presentations. Cerebral stuff, for sure, but we’d expect no less from a man who once dreamed about making hot ice cream." —Bon Appetit

"One of the most hotly anticipated cookbooks of 2014." —Good Morning America

"One hundred years from now, cooking will not be understood without the presence of Ferran Adriá. This astonishing collection of ideas, flavors, and design is a window into one of the world’s most creative minds and reveals the legacy that Ferran and the elBulli team leave behind in the worlds of cuisine and art." —Jose Andres, Chef and Restaurateur, Think Food Group

"Monumental. For many chefs, an 18–kilogram recipe compendium would document a life’s work. In Mr. Adriá’s case, it is merely a slice." —The Economist

"It’s a rare master magician who will willingly part the curtain." —Forbes Life

"Ferran Adriá’s elBulli changed the food world. Then it closed. But Adriá has found a way to bring back epic dishes." —Food & Wine

"An incredible collection of recipes and techniques from a team that forever changed the way I look at food. Insanely inspiring." —Sean Brock, Executive Chef, Husk, McCrady's and Minero, and author of the bestselling book Heritage


Exhibition devoted to elBulli chef Ferran Adrià to be staged in London

Ferran Adrià, one of the world's most highly regarded chefs who gave us food foaming, Parmesan ice cream sandwiches and the most difficult place on the planet to get a table reservation, is to get his own retrospective in London.

Somerset House announced on Thursday it was to host a major exhibition devoted to the superstar chef and his former restaurant on the Catalan coast, elBulli.

Called The Art of Food, the show will showcase "the art of cuisine and cuisine as art" and will include handwritten notes and sketches, plasticine models of the dishes that were served, photographs and archive footage.

Adrià closed elBulli in 2011 with the intention that it will reopen in 2015 as a foundation. He said of the London show: "Even though the restaurant of elBulli is now closed, the spirit of elBulli is still very much alive and this exhibition is one of the ways of keeping it so. For some, I hope it will revive good memories and for others it will give a flavour of a fine dining experience like no other."

For those who did get a table at elBulli, to sample just a few of the 1,846 dishes that were invented there, the experience was unforgettable. The Guardian's art critic Adrian Searle, describing his 40-course experience there in 2008, wrote: "The green leaf that tasted exactly of oysters the grilled strawberry with ginger on the outside and an injection of gin on the inside the polenta gnocchi with coffee and saffron yuba the perfect razor clam with its gelatin twin in the other half of the opened shell. Playful, arresting, occasionally alarming, the meal is almost like a story."

elBulli: Ferran Adrià and the Art of Food is at Somerset House from 5 July to 29 September.


ElBulli: What Ferran Adrià did next

Ferran Adrià holds a watery tomato up like a ruby. Then he tosses it in the air, pulls out a six shooter and blasts it to pulp. Pow. Okay that last bit happened metaphorically but you get the picture.

The world’s most famous chef is talking food. He is ringmaster and clown, all bounce and bottle in blue Nikes, navy chinos and a long sleeve charcoal sweat top that looks like someone hacked the waistband off with a blunt scissors. Each time he waves his long arms in the air (something he does a lot) the top lifts to reveal a muffin-top midriff. He doesn’t seem to give a damn. The Spanish chef who changed restaurant food for a generation has bigger things on his crowded mind.

“Is this tomato natural?” he asks, holding up the watery looking specimen. “No. You won’t find that in nature.” The only natural tomato is to be found in the Andes. “It’s a wild tomato and you wouldn’t eat it. So the worst tomato in the world” as he calls his specimen “is still better than a natural tomato. It’s a lie that natural is better.”

Turning ideas on their heads is Adrià’s schtick. We’re in a grey conference room in Barcelona, a group of journalists, chefs and bar owners brought here by the city’s oldest brewery Estrella Damm. “Currently I almost do nothing related to gastronomy,” the 52-year-old Catalan chef tells us. “I haven’t been to any gastronomical conference for four years now.”

That hasn’t dented his ability to talk. He draws circles, lots of circles. Unreadable words dribble out of the green marker. Later someone will hop onto the stage and tear off a sheet, to get a piece of Adrià memorabilia. “We should put the tomato on eBay,” one wag mutters as we pass the podium.

The tomato is at the heart of Ferran Adrià’s new project: deconstructing the idea of food, its language, history, anthropology and culture. ElBulli the restaurant has morphed into elBulli the lab, home to what he calls the Sapiens project. “I want to know the tomato to create and I want to know the tomato to educate,” he says. “Our challenge is to make people think in a different way.” It’s big picture stuff.

At one point a Scottish chef asks him about one of his famous dishes. But Adrià won’t revisit his past creativity. “Are you married?” he asks the chef. “Sort of.” “Do you have children?” “No.” “Are you brave?” “Yes.” Then Adrià slips into motivational speaker mode. “Look at yourself in the mirror and ask: who do I want to be today?” he says, eyes glinting. “Consequences depend on what you do . . . There is no super bullet. Everyone has to find his own way.”

We are, he says at one point with a grin reminiscent of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka, “living in an imaginary reality”.

So far so cerebral but there’s another project and it’s less food geek and more party animal. He’s returning full circle this summer to a teenage season in Ibiza working as a chef at the hotel Club Cala Llenya. You can see a picture of him from 1981 in Colman Andrews’s book Reinventing Food: Ferran Adrià, The Man who Changed the way We Eat, (a must read for Adrià anoraks). Dressed in grimy chef’s whites he’s sporting what Andrews calls “a Catalan Afro.”

The brown curls have receded and greyed but in July Adrià’s Heart project, a collaboration with Cirque du Soleil, will be unleashed. “It’s the creative collision of art, food and music,” he says, “to completely change the concept of a restaurant, of a cabaret.” Over 3,000sq m, Heart will feature a casino, a “sound cleansing tunnel”, body painting, street food in the “hippy spirit” and gastronomy.

“There’ll be no Michelin stars, none of that, just fiesta, having fun, very informal,” Adrià says. Downstairs will be a workshop “a kind of restaurant, one of the hardest projects I’ve ever worked on. The tables are not very big. They are quite low. The chairs are all different so it doesn’t look like a restaurant.”

Here you might “travel the world in 80 oysters”, or eat caviar from a caviar spider, a high bowl on three spidery legs because caviar “at €900 a kilo is not expensive these days. Gambas [shrimp] are more expensive”. Waiters will put a small chair on your table as a prop to serve the nigiri, the jamón will be served on a golden ham. Other serving implements include a tapas box, a “surprise frog” and an oyster tongue.

Adrià is taking fun very seriously. There is no sense that he misses the old day job. “People came to elBulli wanting the most amazing day of their lives,” he says. That meant working under a lot of pressure. “ElBulli is the 2,500 cooks that worked there. Nowadays many are the most influential in the world.”

Restaurant food is not art, he says. “There’s no art because it’s handcraft. They [chefs] are handcrafters. They’re not an industry. They work with their hands.”

We head outside to a warehouse building in Carrer Mexic a short walk away. At the top of a steep ramp (there is no official door as it’s only open to employees) the elBulli lab is a surprisingly food-free zone. There are no kitchens, Pacojets or spherifiers. Instead door size slabs of styrofoam are arranged on stands with words and pictures pinned to them. Some form room dividers, as if ideas were furniture.

About a dozen people are working on laptops. It’s like a library or a start-up without the foosball table. Head of the lab, chef Eugeni de Diego shows us round.

To the outsider it all looks a bit bonkers. One styrofoam panel has tiny strips of paper with the Latin and Catalan names of plants, each strip cut from a printout and pinned in lines, a painstakingly physical act of display in the digital age. Wandering around feels like being inside someone’s head.

Hanging from the ceiling on string are Adrià’s many magazine covers in plastic bags. The Sapiens project is going to take 10 years and €20 million, de Diego explains. Its Bullipedia website, apps and collection will be a teaching resource for cooking schools. And the funding? It comes from firms like Telefónica, Dom Pérignon and other “business angels”.

The next morning we see the clattering and robotically-beating heart of one of those angels in the Estrella Damm factory near Barcelona airport. Spain’s oldest brewery was set up in 1876 when August K Damm came to Spain from Alsace with his wife Melanie. He added rice beer to a typical Alsace recipe for a warmer climate. It’s factories like this that fund think tanks like the elBulli lab to send its intricate handcrafted information into a world accustomed to a faster brain food diet.

Estrella Damm lager has now arrived in Ireland and Britain and Adrià’s Inedit beer, a blend he designed for Damm in 2009, is also available here. Ironically, for a man who has published 38 books, Inedit is Catalan for “unpublished”.


Ferran Adrià and El Bulli On-Screen

I just watched a new documentary film called A Day in the Life of El Bulli. It’s an intimate and moving look into a restaurant that has changed the way many people think about food.

In 60 minutes, the film watches a day go by (Aug. 22, 2008, to be exact) in the restaurant, which occupies a modest house by the beach in an out-of-the-way cove of the Mediterranean above Barcelona. Juli Soler, who began at the restaurant in 1981 and is now a co-owner, unlocks the doors early in the morning, fixes himself some coffee, and off we go. Chefs gather, deliveries arrive, the kitchen swings into action, and we watch as the elaborate and mysterious dishes come together under the direction of chef Ferran Adrià.

In the afternoon, servers ready the dining room and the tension builds. Each of the 50 guests will be served menus of 35 courses, an undertaking that requires a staff of 70 workers. At seven-thirty in the evening, the first guests arrive and the restaurant explodes into activity, a kind of controlled chaos that is always on the verge of catastrophe, yet for the customers, flows together into a symphony of pleasure. Around midnight, the last plates are cleared, the final glasses drained, the cars pull out of the parking lot and the maître d’ turns out the lights and locks the doors once again.

The film, directed by Ferran’s brother Albert Adrià, who is also a chef at the restaurant, is engaging on a number of levels. Most generally, it reveals the hard work and high tension that animates any successful restaurant. More particularly, it offers insight into the work and creativity of Ferran, who, in my opinion, has been the world’s most influential chef of the past 20 years.

Adrià’s project, as I understand it, has been to take ingredients, both common and obscure, and transform and combine them to create dishes that surprise and delight the diner. Describing the dishes in words never seems to convey their essence, but watching them come together onscreen gives a much more vivid idea of how playful and imaginative Adrià’s food is.

Also, while Adrià has a reputation for being as much of a chemist as a cook in creating his “molecular gastronomy” (a term he dislikes), watching his team at their tasks supports his comment in the film that the cooking “is not fundamentally technical, it’s the work of many hands.” Don’t look for a mad scientist this is intricate craftsmanship and plain hard work.

It was interesting to watch the reactions of the customers in the film. They were all smiling—pleased to have obtained the most difficult reservation in the world, happy to be together in such a comfortable setting, delighted by the food. But they occupied a tiny fraction of the screen time. And they seemed not oblivious, exactly, but somehow on the sidelines, far removed from the intense, disciplined, focused team that was preparing and serving the food.

El Bulli is a restaurant, of course, and Ferran would never say that a restaurant’s fundamental mission is not to serve its diners. But at the screening, the stocky, graying chef insisted that the secret of El Bulli’s success has been its willingness to take risks, and its determination to work hard enough to ensure those risks paid off.

Customers are the essential endpoint of the process—they are the ones who benefit from the results of that risk-taking and, of course, their money supports it. But the real achievement—and the most fulfilling satisfaction—accrues to the people who are at the beginning and the middle of the process, who have the vision and do the work.

You can see it in the faces of the young, multicultural team, in their comraderie, in their dedication to Ferran. Even the dishwashers appear proud and happy, essential to the restaurant’s success. It’s emotional for them, and it was emotional for me. It makes El Bulli seem like a magical place. No wonder that 2 million people each year plead for a place at the table.

According to Adrià, the film should be available in English in a few months. But it’s based on a 2008 book called A Day at El Bulli, which tells the same story in a collection of 1,000 black-and-white photographs. For those interested in the man as much as his food, I recommend Colman Andrews’ new biography, Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food.

A recent review of Andrews’ book in the New York Times criticized the author and, by implication, the chef: “He’s written hagiography, not biography,” grumbled Dwight Garner about Andrews. “Reading Ferran is like being waterboarded with truffle oil.”

I wonder if Garner has ever eaten at El Bulli. I find that people who have only heard or read about the restaurant are often skeptics, while those who have made the pilgrimage tend to be converts. I have eaten there, and I believe that Ferran is a genius. What’s your take?


Watch the video: Ferran Adrià Cenando Probando el Menu 2008 (May 2022).