Ferran Adrià: “In these last 10 years I have tried to understand what we had done in El Bulli in the last 30”

  • The chef shares his reflections on gastronomy at Casa Seat as part of ‘Afterwork’, the EL PERIÓDICO series of conferences

After a few years at the top of the gastronomic world, turned into a world icon thanks to the revolutionary avant-garde that he defended at El Bulli, Ferran Adria He has been spacing out his public appearances. In July it will be 11 years since the closure of the mythical restaurant in Cala Montjoi, and now it is in a period of reflection on what that experience meant for him and for the rest of the planet. Reflections that he shared this Thursday at Casa Seat, within the series of conferences ‘Afterwork’ organized by EL PERIÓDICO DE CATALUNYA.

From the hand of the chronicler of this newspaper and coordinator of the Cata Mayor channel, Pau ArenosAdria was reeling off his career before a packed and devoted audience to a chef who, as he warned, continues to feel like such, although in the form of “theoretical cook“For he is no longer managing a restaurant. “In the last 10 years I have tried to understand what he had done in the last 30. And now I understand it much more.”

As he continues to ponder, the bullipaediaanother of the great projects that he leads, has published 27 600-page books, and has almost finished ElBulli 1846which “will not be a restaurant, something I have repeated 1,500 times, but a museum to store the legacy of El Bulli that will host three-month meetings to deal with innovation issues”.

Now he lives more peacefully, about to turn 60 in May, away from the frenzy he experienced during the first two decades of this century: from his appearance in 2003 on the cover of the ‘magazine’ of ‘The New York Times’ until the closure of El Bulli in 2011going through his conferences around the world years later explaining what was going to be ElBulli Foundation and even his imitations in ‘Polònia’ (TV-3) or the figure of the ‘caganer’ that was dedicated to him.

I didn’t like to eat or cook. I became a dishwasher at the Playafels hotel in Castelldefels to earn money and go to Eivissa

But that tranquility did not take away a bit of depth from her arguments to analyze the current situation of gastronomy or from the spontaneity of a talk in which she reminded her of anecdotes that raised smiles among those present. “I didn’t like to eat or cook, but I became a dishwasher at the Playafels hotel in Castelldefels to get money and go to Eivissa“. The party threw him more than the kitchen, he admitted. And he discovered that the chef’s life was “very bohemian and very crazy”.

But entered as one more in El Bulli in 1983 And that’s where the story changed. Yours and that of world haute cuisine. Sore everything from 1994, when he took over the responsibility of running the kitchen. “Until 1993 we made new Catalan cuisine“, he remembers. But he I wanted to go a step further, although I was not clear about the direction. “In the end, cooking is a language that is built with the letters with which you create words, in this case, products and techniques.”

And the revealing phrase he heard one of his culinary idols Jacques Maximin say in 1987 helped him in his endeavor: “Creating is not copying“. So simple, so direct, so understandable. So from Adrià, even if the Frenchman verbalized it.

A progressive turn towards techno-emotional cuisine

So, convinced that he wanted to be at the forefront of gastronomy (“they are those who are willing not to change anything they do, even if they have to die with their ideas”), was turning “little by little” towards techno-emotional cuisine for which he will be remembered for ever and ever.

That desire to question everything that meant a “paradigm shift of what it is to cook and eat” they are, for him, the maximum expression of the attitude of a creator. And the demonstration, moreover, that it could be “create in the kitchen without being french“, something that in France never finished liking, no matter how much Joël Robuchon anointed him as his successor. “It is that, until then, haute cuisine was France, France and France“.

At El Bulli we set out to break new ground and see where the limit of a gastronomic experience was

That choice of “open paths and see where the limit of a gastronomic experience was“, agreed with Julia Solerdirector and co-owner of the restaurant together with Adrià, had his price for many years: to lose money. A lot of money. “We didn’t have a penny. Consultancies and advisory services to external companies saved us because until 1998 we did not start to earn money“remember. And that the third star had arrived in December 1996 (yes, with hardly any media echo).

At first they saw us as geeks [respecto a la apuesta de El Bulli por la cocina de vanguardia]

But they were clear. It was necessary to go in search of limits never seen before in haute cuisine. “At first they saw us as geeksBut then things accelerated to levels unimaginable a few years ago. The cover of ‘The New York Times’ in 2003, his participation in the Kassel Dokumenta in 2007 as a guest ‘artist’ (“it was there that I saw clearly that cooking is one thing and art is another, although they share the nexus of creativity, so I said that we were not artists and the debate is over”)…

A worldwide phenomenon was generated: they could only give dinner to 7,000 clients each year and received more than a million requests. “The daily management of restaurant reservations was very complicated.”

We were not looking for awards and recognition. The prize was being able to create something new, and the level we set ourselves was incredible

“We live it in a very normal way because it was progressive and because we were not looking for awards and recognition. The prize was being able to create something new, and the level we set ourselves was incredible. So we live it in a very normal way. Although today any young and ambitious chef wants to be the cover of anything in two years. And earn money. Tell someone now that it will take 14 years to make some money like we did,” she stresses.

A restaurant is the most difficult business in the world

and warn that opening a restaurant is not a big business, and the statistics were sent: half of them do not reach five years. “It’s the hardest business in the world“, he proclaimed. Not in vain, the chef knows about failures. In fact, he keeps a folder with them. “Most of the things we devised did not turn out well. It was impossible for everything to go well!” The greatest for him is the hot ice cream. He had to give up.

Since the closure of El Bulli, few things have happened in haute cuisine

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He feels bad that powerful projects don’t come out, but he admits that the investments to open a haute cuisine establishment are stratospheric, two or three million euros. “It’s a shame because today’s young chefs are much more prepared than those of my generation, although sometimes they don’t know where they want to go. That’s why restaurants with three Michelin stars in Spain have been around for quite a few years now. And since the closure of El Bulli, few things have happened in haute cuisine“, he lamented.

What he sees in other countries stimulates him more, and he quoted China as the one that proposes a more groundbreaking gastronomy, especially in the big cities. “You would be amazed at the young people out there, with a amazing creative level. Have new products, techniques, tools and elaborations that I don’t know if we will be able to understand. He’s a monster,” she announced.

“On November 20, 2009, while I was driving, I decided to close El Bulli”

Adrian explained that the only pressure i felt was to do something new every time he sat down with his team to come up with dishes: “More than pressure, it was the self-pressure that we imposed on ourselves to make 100 elaborations each year. The important thing was to decide what was creative and what wasn’t.” Until saw that they had reached the limit, their limit. Both the physical (“the human body cannot take on a tasting menu with 44 passes”) and the creative. That is why he took the step of closing El Bulli. “I remember perfectly the moment when I decided: It was on November 20, 2009. I was driving to Cala Montjoi. And I thought that it didn’t make sense to continue much longer even though we could live on this for a long time, charging 1,000 and 2,000 euros per guest. I told Juli, who was already sick at the time, and he told me ‘yourself’. But explaining it to everyone was tiring. And when we said we were closing, it was crazy “. Albert Adrià had left the restaurant a year before, and Ferran says that his brother” already smelled “that sooner or later it was going to come to an end”. And the end of El Bulli came on July 30, 2011.

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