Ferran AdriÃ is featured in the current edition of the IDEAS magazine, the IE Business School Alumni Magazine. Read this interesting interview with the considered to be best chef running the considered to be best restaurant in the world, in Spain!
Today, he has become a living legend of the gastronomic universe. His proposition? Demonstrate that cooking is the best expression of intelligence and creativity.
There is a clear connection between Ferran AdriÃ â??s work and the various artistic and philosophical trends of the 20th century, from surrealism to the new critique of the theoretical movement of deconstruction… His gift can be compared with that of other Spaniards, such as the painters Salvador DalÃ, Pablo Picasso and Joan MirÃ³, or the film director Luis BuÃ±uel.â? These have been the arguments put forward by the Scottish University of Aberdeen to award Ferran AdriÃ the title of doctor honoris causa in Humanities â??for his contribution to contemporary thoughtâ?. The comparison Aberdeen made between AdriÃ and artists who have stood out -but until recently of minor importance as far as the Spanish public is concerned- is surprising at the very least. It would appear that eccentricity is more recognized than excellence, as if both qualities were incompatible and the â??fusionâ? never happened.The son of a plasterer, he preferred not to do a degree in business and launched himself on the adventure of finding summer work in restaurants and tapas bars on the Spanish coast. However, destiny had already outlined his name in capital letters. During his military service in the Navy in Cartagena, he decided to accept a friendâ??s proposal to start work as the kitchen hand in elBulli, a restaurant already of known prestige of which, interestingly, he had not heard until that moment. The restaurant was located in Cala Montjoi, 6 km from Roses (Gerona).
Today, elBulli has three Michelin stars, opens only seven months a year, and offers almost zero possibility for booking a table. All thanks to the genius of this masterchef, a simple man of few words, but owner of a brain that is constantly simmering.
His creations construct (or deconstruct?) a world of unprecedented sensations, textures and flavours through a more than loquacious combination: sweetsavoury, hot-cold, raw-cooked… to cause a gastronomic big bang that excites every sense and exceeds every expectation. His is a scientific balancing act based on savoury sorbets, futuristic foams, warm jellies and an endless array of â??madnessâ? that never ever creates indifference on the most capricious palates.
However, the road to this â??alchemistic artâ? has required many hours of devotion in the kitchen and, of course, his laboratory, where he works body and soul when elBulli is closed. There, he has successfully formulated the so-called â??deconstruction cuisineâ?, which, as he has defined on many occasions, consists of â??using and respecting well-known harmonies, transforming the textures of the ingredients, as well as their shape and temperatureâ?. In other words, showing respect for culinary tradition, but transforming it.
Genuinely obsessed with his work, tireless to the bone, with a deep vocation for teaching and diffusion, as well as getting â??the pleasure of all pleasuresâ? ready every year at elBulli, the restaurant he manages in conjunction with his partner Juli Soler, AdriÃ has launched a number of satellites in the same orbit. These include: elBulli Catering, the nhube concept (areas that combine gastronomy with rest and leisure), the Fast Good (quality fast food), bulliolor (air fresheners for certain dishes), Faces (kitchen and table utensils with a design that is practical and, of course, avant-garde)… The machine has one single rest, which is, of course, creative; he is like the spider that never stops perfecting its web or the cobra that hypnotises with the noise of its hiss.
To what extent is cooking an art?
We do creativity, but I donâ??t feel like an â??artistâ??. Our aim is not to be in a museum in the future.
Destiny clearly played all its cards in your favour when you began… because you were the private chef of a navy admiral in Cartagena when FermÃ Puig (chef at El Drolma) became friends with you and suggested you did a stage at elBulli. How do you remember those early days?
I was only 22-years-old in October 1984 when they appointed me as chef at elBulli, together with Kristian Lutaud. They were very active years. We visited markets and restaurants in search of new products. We read books and drew inspiration from the French, such as GuÃ©rard, Chapel, Maximin, Troisgros, Robuchon and Blancâ?¦
It was during your stages at elBulli that you explained your secrets aloud to experienced chefs as a formula for spreading your theories. Arenâ??t you afraid of competitors?
Cooking is sharing and thatâ??s what makes it evolve.
Is cooking the best tool for showing others how you see life?
Itâ??s the way we, as chefs, reflect our work, our way of understanding life.
To what point is creative cuisine an intellectual exercise in that all five senses play a fundamental role?
All cuisine involves all five senses; even drinking a glass of water.
How do you explain that the menu you offer at elBulli is unrepeatable?
We change the entire menu every season, which is why the same dishes cannot be eaten from one year to the next.
Can you define deconstruction for us in the purest culinary style?
It is reconsidering everyday dishes, using memory to create. There is an element of provocation, and there is sense of humour.
Do you think creative cuisine still holds any surprises?
Yes, it has evolved in recent years and it continues to evolve, although it will logically become more and more difficult.
Where is AdriÃ â??s culinary revolution at present?
Continuing working, day-by-day.
Do you think becoming a genius can be dangerous?
I hate the concept of genius. I have been capable of and been fortunate enough to find a road. That is, perhaps, the only merit I have.
Together with restaurante Arzak, elBulli is the cheapest â??three-starâ?? in the world. Dinners only, five days a week, six months a year. How can you actually make the business profitable? Is bullicatering the pillar of the empire? Is it the bulliworkshop, the bullihotelâ?¦?
We do business to buy our creative freedom. I donâ??t like doing business, but since we do it, letâ??s have a good time.
Recognized chefs such as Marc Veyrat, Paul Bocuse and AndrÃ© Daguin support the request made to UNESCO to designate French gastronomy as world heritage. In your opinion, how many other gastronomic cultures also would merit such recognition?
I think all cuisine is world heritage. When you eat paella, you are eating gastronomic culture and history.
In which direction does modern-day cuisine have to go?
After the revolution of the 1990s, we now have a very good generation of chefs. Spain is at the forefront in the world and I think we will stay there for a few more years. After that, I donâ??t know. Itâ??s difficult to always be the leader.