Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The New Culinary Think Tank - el bulli 2.0- Lecture 14- Ferran Adrià


Ferran Adrià (elBulli)

This public lecture series discusses concepts from the physical sciences that underpin both everyday cooking and haute cuisine. Each lecture features a world-class chef who visited and presented their remarkable culinary designs: Ferran Adria presented spherification; Jose Andres discussed both the basic components of food and gelation; Joan Roca demonstrated sous vide; Enric Rovira showed his chocolate delicacies; Wylie Dufresne presented inventions with transglutaminase. The lectures then use these culinary creations as inspiration to delve into understanding how and why cooking techniques and recipes work, focusing on the physical transformations of foods and material properties.

Who is Ferran Adrià? Ferran Adrià Biography

Ferran Adrià i Acosta (Catalan pronunciation: [fəˈran əðɾiˈa]) is a Catalan Spanish chef born on May 14, 1962 in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat (Catalonia). He was the head chef of the elBulli restaurant in Roses on the Costa Brava and is considered one of the best chefs in the world.

Ferran Adria has been called the world's greatest chef. He is certainly one of the most creative. Gourmet magazine referred to Adria as "the Salvador Dali­ of the kitchen". His restaurant, El Bulli, was recently named best restaurant in the world by the prestigious Restaurant magazine. Without a doubt, Ferran Adria will hold a prominent place in culinary history.


Ferran Adria was born May 14, 1962 in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat (a suburb of Barcelona), Spain. Adria's early schooling took place in Barcelona and at the age of 14 he enrolled at the Instituto Verge de la Merci¨ to study business administration. In 1980, at the age of 18, he left school out of boredom.

Culinary Beginnings


Ferran Adrià began his culinary career in 1980 during his stint as a dishwasher at the Hotel Playafels, in the town of Castelldefels, Spain. The chef de cuisine at this hotel taught him traditional Spanish cuisine. It was here that he learned the classic culinary techniques as the chef there introduced Adrià to El Practico, the Spanish equivalent of Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire. Adria eventually made it to Ibiza, working at the Club Cala Lena for four months in 1981-1982. He returned to Barcelona and worked at a number of restaurants before finally landing a job at the celebrated Finisterre, where he became assistant chef.

At 19 he was drafted into military service where he worked as a cook. He was in the Spanish Navy stationed at the Naval Base of Cartagena. He was a member of the captain general's kitchen staff and eventually was in charge of a kitchen for the first time in his life.

In 1984, at the age of 22, Adrià joined the kitchen staff of El Bulli as a line cook. Eighteen months later he became the head chef.

In 1994, Ferran Adrià and Juli Soler (his partner) sold 20% of their business to Miquel Horta (a Catalan millionaire and philanthropist and son of the founder of Nenuco) for 120 million Pesetas. This event became a turning point for el Bulli: the money was used to finance an expansion of the kitchen and the relationship with Horta opened the door to new clients, businessmen, and politicians who helped spread the word about the creative experimentation happening at the time in Cala Montjoi.

Along with British chef Heston Blumenthal, Adrià is often associated with "molecular gastronomy," although like Blumenthal the Catalan chef does not consider his cuisine to be of this category. Instead, he has referred to his cooking as deconstructivist. He defines the term as 'Taking a dish that is well known and transforming all its ingredients, or part of them; then modifying the dish's texture, form and/or its temperature. Deconstructed, such a dish will preserve its essence... but its appearance will be radically different from the original's.' His stated goal is to "provide unexpected contrasts of flavor, temperature and texture. Nothing is what it seems. The idea is to provoke surprise and delight the diner." As he likes to say, "the ideal customer doesn't come to elBulli to eat but to have an experience."

ElBulli was only open for about six months of the year, from mid-June to mid-December. Adrià spent the remaining six months of the year perfecting recipes in the workshop "elBulliTaller" in Barcelona. The restaurant closed on July 30, 2011. It will reopen as a creativity center in 2014.

ElBulli had 3 Michelin stars and was one of the best restaurants in the world. It received first place in the Restaurant Top 50 in 2002. Then in 2005, it ranked second. It was again awarded the first place in 2006, and retained this title in 2007, 2008 and 2009, making a record 5 times in the top spot. In 2010, after elBulli announced it would close for good the next season, the title was awarded to Noma of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Adrià is well known for creating "culinary foam." Adrià explored foams created without the addition of cream or egg white; foams are made of a flavored liquid and an additive (such as lecithin), then aerated through a variety of methods, including whipping with an immersion blender or extrusion from a siphon bottle equipped with N2O cartridges. Further culinary processes (such as freeze-drying or freezing with liquid nitrogen) may be applied to foams as well. Using a single flavored liquid allows the flavor of the final product to be less diluted and thus more intense.

Adrià is the author of several cookbooks including A Day at El Bulli, El Bulli 2003–2004 and Cocinar en Casa (Cooking at Home). With his young assistant Daniel Picard, Adrià has made almonds into cheese and asparagus into bread with the help of natural ingredients.

Adrià has been a featured chef on Great Chefs television.

In the fall of 2010, Adrià and José Andrés will teach a culinary physics course "Science and Cooking" at Harvard University.

In October 2010, Adrià announces an alliance with Telefónica.

In March 2012 he announced the new project he's working on: LaBullipedia. In a later interview he described as "A Western haute cuisine Wikipedia at the service of information but also creativity".

Adria Meets El Bulli

Adria completed his service in August 1983. Soon after leaving the navy, he was given the chance to do a stage (tryout) at El Bulli in Roses, Spain. Apparently the chef liked what he saw and Adria was offered the job of Chef de Partie (line cook). Adria was 22 years old at the time. Eighteen months later he would become head chef.

El Bulli Becomes a Star (actually 3 stars)

Before the arrival of Adria, El Bulli was relatively unknown. Despite its remote location (El Bulli is located in the small town of Roses on the coast of Catalonia, about two hours north of Barcelona at the end of a narrow, winding mountain road.), it has 3 Michelin stars and is ranked the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine.

El Bulli was known as a traditional French restaurant. When Adria joined the staff, the restaurant's manager Juli Soler recommended he travel to find fresh ideas to use at El Bulli. Adria went to some of France's top restaurants where he acquired a massive collection of techniques from many of the great culinary masters.

documenta 12

In 2007, Chef Ferran Adrià was invited to participate in documenta, "a sort of art world Olympics." Adrià -having been called the ‘Salvador Dalí of the kitchen’ (not simply because of his Catalonian roots, which he also shares with Casals and Miró) and often referred to not only as an artist, inventor, scientist, designer, philosopher and stage director– felt like an intruder at the event, saying “artists all over battle all their lives to receive an invitation to display their work at documenta and now I, a cook, am asked to go along!” Organizer Roger Buergel told Adrià that he believed "that to create a new cooking technique was as complicated and challenging as painting a great picture. He said that he sees the work [Adria] does as a new artistic discipline, that [Adria's] work shows cuisine should be a new art form.” With this notion in mind, Buergel invited him to partake in this prestigious international event held every five years in Kassel, Germany.

Adria decided to take a different approach to this event. With the approval of the documenta committee, he set up his pavilion (i.e. exhibition space) some 850 miles from Kassel in his own restaurant, El Bulli. He believed that in order to truly experience his craft one had to come into his controlled environment because what he does is "ephemeral, it’s not moveable, it can’t be in a museum" (it was also impractical to move all his equipment there). It was then agreed upon that every day, two names would be selected at random and those names would be the diners who would be able to see his ‘pavilion.’ The collection of these experiences were documented, along with photographs and interviews from an eclectic group of figures in the art world (including Massimo de Carlo, Bice Curiger, Anya Gallaccio, Massimialiano Gioni, Carsten Höller, Peter Kubelka, Antoni Miralda, Jerry Saltz, Adrian Searle, Vicent Todolí and Richard Hamilton), and were published in Food for Thought, Thought for Food.

However, there was some controversy regarding Adrià’s participation in documenta, "some questioning the idea that that cooking and art were co-extensive." Despite the fact that dishes from avant-garde cuisine are aesthetically pleasing (you eat first with your eyes), one of his colleagues, Chef Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck in Great Britain, "is uneasy about the idea that he might be an artist, although he does compare restaurant going to a trip to the theater, the cinema or an art gallery." Even Adrià himself has compared a dinner at his restaurant as a night out at the theater. When people discuss a meal there, they usually talk about the rhythm and flow of the dishes, and that the movements of the waiters and sommeliers are amazingly choreographed. Similarly to theater, in some aspects, Chef Adria engages the diner’s five senses, hoping to evoke irony, humor, and even childhood memories with his creations. He said he has "turned eating into an experience that supersedes eating."


Adrià denounced his fellow 3-star Michelin cook Santi Santamaria who described his approach to cuisine as "pretentious". Traditionalist Santi Santamaria attacked Adrià's dishes in El Bulli as unhealthy, alleging that "Adrià's dishes are designed to impress rather than satisfy and used chemicals that actually put diners' health at risk". Top chefs, however, accused Santamaria, who runs the 3-star Can Fabes also in Catalonia, of envy and "endangering the reputations of Spanish kitchens". The criticism has split top Spanish chefs into pro- and anti-Adrià camps. Unusual dishes that have been criticized include frozen whisky sour candy, white garlic and almond sorbet, tobacco-flavored blackberry crushed ice and Kellogg's paella (Rice Krispies, shrimp heads and vanilla-flavored mashed potatoes).

German food writer, Jörg Zipprick, accused Adrià of more or less poisoning his customers with the additives he uses in his cuisine and said that Adrià's menu should carry health warnings: "These colorants, gelling agents, emulsifiers, acidifiers and taste enhancers that Adrià has introduced massively into his dishes to obtain extraordinary textures, tastes and sensations do not have a neutral impact on health".

Molecular Gastronomy

In the late 1980's, Adria began performing cooking experiments which would forever change El Bulli's place in culinary history. Adria's experiments are often associated with Molecular Gastronomy or culinary physics, 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.

Culinary Foam and the Future

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.

In 2006, after many years as number 2, El Bulli moved to the top spot in Restaurant magazine's list of best restaurants in the world. Still a young man (44), we can expect to see many more great things from Ferran Adria. They will most undoubtedly be unexpected yet wonderful things.

Domestic Commercialization

Texturas is a range of products by Ferran Adrià, and his brother Albert Adrià. The products include the Sferificación, Gelificación, Emulsificación, Espesantes and Surprises lines are the result of a rigorous process of selection and experimentation. Texturas include products such as Xanthan and Algin which are packaged and labeled as Xantana Texturas and Algin Texturas respectively. Xanthan gum allows the user to use a very small amount to thicken soups, sauces and creams without changing the flavor. Algin is a key component of the "Spherification Kit" and is used for every spherical preparation: caviar, raviolis, balloons, gnocchi, pellets, and mini-spheres.

In October 2008, Ferran Adrià published A Day at El Bulli along with Juli Soler, and Albert Adrià. The book describes 24-hours at the El Bulli restaurant, with images, commentary, photographs and 30 recipes. Most of the recipes included are complex and require many out-of-the ordinary kitchen appliances, such as a Pacojet, freeze-dryer, liquid nitrogen tank, candyfloss machine and Perspex molds.


1. El Bulli 1983–1993 (with Juli Soler and Albert Adrià)

2. El Bulli: el sabor del Mediterráneo, 1993, ISBN 84-7596-415-X

3. Los secretos de El Bulli, 1997, ISBN 448710002

4. El Bulli 1994–1997 (with Juli Soler and Albert Adrià)

5. Cocinar en 10 minutos con Ferran Adrià, 1998, ISBN 84-605-7628-0

6. Celebrar el milenio con Arzak y Adrià (with Juan Mari Arzak), 1999, ISBN 84-8307-246-7

7. El Bulli 1998–2002 (with Juli Soler and Albert Adrià), Conran Octopus, 2003, ISBN 1-84091-346-0; Ecco, 2005, ISBN 0-06-081757-7

8. El Bulli 2003–2004 (with Juli Soler and Albert Adrià), Ecco, 2006, ISBN 0-06-114668-4

11. FOOD for thought THOUGHT for food (El Bulli y Ferran Adrià), 2009 ACTAR Editorial, ISBN 978-84-96954-68-7

12. The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria 2011 Phaidon, ISBN 978-0-7148-6253-8

13. Coco: 10 World-Leading Masters Choose 100 Contemporary Chefs. Editors of Phaidon Press (Author), Mario Batali (Foreword), Rene Redzepi (Contributor), Ferran Adria(Contributor), Alain Ducasse (Contributor), Shannon Bennett (Contributor), Gordon Ramsay (Contributor), Yoshihiro Murata (Contributor). Phaidon Press (December 6, 2010) ISBN-10: 0714859575

14. Modern Gastronomy: A to Z. Ferran Adria. CRC Press; 1 edition (December 21, 2009). ISBN-10: 1439812454

15. Hannah Collins: The Fragile Feast, Routes to Ferran Adrià. Ferran Adria (Author), Hannah Collins (Author). Hatje Cantz (January 31, 2012). ISBN-10: 3775732101

16. A Stroll Through Adrianic Cuisine. Jaume Coll (Author), Ferran Adrià (Author). Polytechnic University of Valencia (2010). ASIN: B0067K9IF0

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