If you follow food blogs, or have ever eaten food in your life, then you should be aware of El Bulli’s close last Saturday. I was going to write a post about it on Sunday, but I waited to see the “No Reservations” that aired tonight (Monday) where Anthony Bourdain gets exclusive access to the restaurant’s final hours.
El Bullis is nothing without its chef, or creator, or mad scientist, or innovator, Ferran Adria. I had formed positive notions of him as a chef after watching videos which he was in and reading about his food and passion, but after seeing him on “No Reservations,” my opinions of him have changed. They have gotten much better. I think he is the culinary equivalent of Salvador Dali; he is a food Surrealist.
If you know nothing about Ferran Adria and his work at El Bulli, then I should not be the one informing you. I know precious little about him, and so very little about cooking that my gushing praise is like baby-prattle compared to what people who actually cook have to say about him. I’m like the four year-old at the Yankees game telling my brother I want to be like Derek Jeter when I grow up, when in the dug-out his teamates are doing interviews saying how good of an athlete he is. I am just an admirer, and so my opinion is biased and uninformed, so if you really want to get to know what this man is doing in a kitchen, I would Google him and go wild.
But in my opinion, he has changed the culinary landscape. He ushered in and virtually created, or is given credit for creating, a style of cooking called “molecular gastronomy,” for lack of a more beautiful phrase. I wonder what “molecular gastronomy” translates to in Spanish?
He is famous for playing with the idea of food and how it is served, enjoyed, experienced, tasted, and remembered. “Adria’s experiments are often associated with Molecular Gastronomy, the application of science to culinary practices and cooking phenomena. His creations are designed to surprise and enchant his guests but the importance of taste is always the ultimate goal. He is best known for creating “culinary foam”, which is now used by chefs around the world. Culinary foam consists of natural flavors (sweet or savory) mixed with a natural gelling agent. The mixture is placed in a whipped cream canister where the foam is then forced out with the help of nitrous oxide. In keeping with the creative goals of El Bulli, the restaurant closes for six month each year during which time Adria travels for inspiration and performs experiments and perfects recipes in his culinary lab, El Taller.”
Since 2006, El Bulli has been officially and unofficially the best restaurant in the world. Imagine that. For five years running, this man has been at the culinary helm of the greatest restaurant on the planet Earth. His mix of science and cooking is controversial to some, as they argue that it undermines a lot of the traditions of food, and that gastronomy has no future but to get more obscure and scientific until it peters out into nonexistence. I believe that is fine with Adria, because he doesn’t seem to care much about the future. He is constantly pushing the limits of what food is, and exploiting and highlighting the difference between what you to expect to taste and what you experience. The last meal he served to friends and family on Saturday was over fifty courses of food.
He is closing El Bulli as a restaurant for a few years in order to have time to work on other projects, but he will reopen it in 2014. Adria plans on chaning what El Bulli is though, and I doubt that the 2014 El Bulli will be as “restaurant-centric” when it reopens, and I think it will be more of a culinary think-tank and creativity hub. Still, it gives me hope that I may one day be able to eat a meal of his. Most likely not though, his restaurant has 52 seats and is open for six months of the year, so the waitlist is unbelievable.
I called him the Dali of cooking because in addition to being an amazing chef, he seems to have a rare and concrete idea of what cooking is. He is eccentric, brilliant, passionate, and quirky. Here are some of my favorite quotes of his:
- “I used to go to bed thinking, Why did one person like it but the other person didn’t? One thought it was too much and the other thought it was not enough. It took me fifteen years to understand. Every person is a world. It’s better not to ask. Otherwise, you’re going to end up at the psychoanalyst.”
- “You need an entire life just to know about tomatoes.”
- “Most restaurants are food museums, mine is a food womb.”
I included the last quote because I think it sums up the ideaology behind his cooking.
Also, I found while I was doing research on him that he is teaching a class this fall at Harvard on “Culinary Physics.”