BYÂ MATT ESSERT
If you’re a foodie or just into restaurants or cooking, you’ve probably heard of the culinary mastermind Ferran Adria and his highly acclaimed restaurant El Bulli in Spain. After opening in 1964, the restaurant grew in popularity and acclaim, eventually gaining its third Michelin star in 1997, an honor only 81 restaurants in the world hold.
For as long as he’s been at the helm of El Bulli, Ferran Adria has been an all-star in the culinary world and a pioneer of the “molecular gastronomy” movement. But Adria doesn’t like that label. Instead, the chef calls what he does “deconstruction” and has said that “the ideal customer doesn’t come to El Bulli to eat but to have an experience.” Ferran clearly had a vision for the perfect restaurant and spent many years working towards it.
All that work has paid off and for several years, El Bulli has been talked about as one of the, if not the, best restaurants in the world. In recent years, the restaurant only operated seven months a year and of the two million reservation requests, the restaurant could only accommodate 8,000 diners each season. The extreme popularity has helped to create an aura about the restaurant that is well deserved. Diners get to enjoy an epic tasting menu that will sometimes feature as many as 30 separate courses, each with its own delicious twists, flavors, and surprises.
After nearly 50 years of forward-thinking service, Ferran announced that El Bulli would officially close on July 30, 2011. While striving to attain culinary perfection, Ferran and his kitchen suffered massive monetary loses and eventually decided to close the kitchen doors. The restaurant’s website announced that El Bulli would take a few years off and re-open in 2014 as a culinary creativity center. It will be, according to the website, “a think-tank for creative cuisine and gastronomy and will be managed by a private foundation.” After so many years creating wonderful and whimsical dishes like the liquid olive, it will be quite exciting to see what kind of research and innovation the culinary center will be able to produce.
Along these lines of learning and sharing knowledge, several books have been written by or about El Bulli and its legacy. Journalist Lisa Abend recently released “The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adria ‘s elBulli” which offered a glimpse at the life of an entry-level chef, or stagiaire (a cook who agrees to work for a small wage in return for a season as one of Adria ‘s apprentices), at El Bulli. Additionally, the restaurant itself has released a number of cookbooks and the work “A Day At El Bulli,” in which Chef Adria chronicles 24-hours at the restaurant.
While a lot of the El Bulli cookbooks are beautiful but daunting in offering many complicated recipes, this October, Ferran is releasing “The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria ;” a more accessible cookbook that aims to offer home cooks the ability to cook with some of the same spirit as the chefs at El Bulli. Getting this kind of insight into the mind of Ferran and the work that goes on behind the scenes at El Bulli will be invaluable to all chefs of any level that are trying to improve their culinary skills.
If you want to learn even more about El Bulli and Chef Adria , a new documentary is premiere’s tonight at the New York City’s Film Forum Â titled “El Bulli: Cooking in Progress.” The film chronicles the life and work of El Bulli and takes a deep look the behind of the scenes of the restaurant. It reveals the secrets behind the doors of El Bulli that would be otherwise inaccessible to the public. To get a sneak peek of the doc, check out the trailer below.
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