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Ferran Adrià: “Tastes change”

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Ferran Adrià
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Short Profile

Name: Ferran Adrià i Acosta
DOB: 14 May 1962
Place of Birth: Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Occupation: Chef

Mr. Adrià, are you the best chef in the world?

You can’t measure something like that. However, my restaurant elBulli, not I, was certainly the most influential restaurant in the world. You can observe the fact that some of the most successful chefs now in their 30s and 40s worked at elBulli at some point. That is something that you can measure and a point of praise that I can accept. But everything else? Whether I’m the best or not, no one can really say. I did indeed work there, but I’m a long way from working alone.

Cooking in a restaurant is always a team effort.

Most definitely. That was the heart and soul of our kitchen! Everyone who found himself there committed himself entirely.

What is your favorite restaurant? You must be incredibly picky…

That varies. I’ve never consciously had a favorite. What I enjoy is the actual process of discovery and becoming acquainted with new things, even as a guest. It is simply unbelievable what our generation is able to do in comparison to those who came before us.

What do you mean?

We have the ability to eat out several times a year and enjoy the various cuisines of multiple regions. Forty years ago that wasn’t yet the case. The world of discovery was still reserved only for the rich. For most, eating wasn’t about enjoying food, but rather simply consuming enough nutrients.

Have you retained any interest in plain traditional fare?

These are really two different ways to cook. For the one, the name says it all: it is food for traditional purposes. The other is a high art. What a person likes is certainly dependent upon his or her individual taste or how he or she happens to be feeling on that particular day. It’s no different for me.

So you can still enjoy a simple plate of pasta? For a lot of people Italian is the universal go-to cuisine.

Did you know that there are now actually more Japanese restaurants than Italian?

I must admit I didn’t.

That’s exactly what I mean. Tastes change. Especially young people prefer Italian dishes less and less. They would rather have something light and fresh. Just wait and see: fifty years from now even the current trend will have changed.

Is cooking more of an art or a science for you?

Cooking was the first occupation pursued by humanity. Since then we have experienced an endless evolution in the history of cooking; we continually discover new possibilities. You can therefore most definitely look at cooking as an ongoing experiment.

Is the motto “cook from the heart” nevertheless an applicable statement for you? In any case your kitchen bears a resemblance to a sterile research laboratory.

Research always has a great deal to do with passion. If you pay close attention, you’ll realize that nearly all researchers pursue their professions passionately. It makes no difference how sterile the environment seems.

Your restaurant was only open six months out of the year despite receiving 2 million reservation requests for that period. Was artificial scarcity – the exclusivity of a reservation – part of your concept?

It was certainly one of the factors contributing to the appeal of the restaurant, but we also needed those six months of quiet in order to prepare something new for the upcoming season.

That’s true. There was never a dish from a previous season, even though items on the menu consisted of up to 35 portions.

The challenge for us was to continually develop a new palette for the next year. In your time as a restaurateur, if you don’t occasionally think about closing again you don’t have this challenge. There simply isn’t the room or time.

With a mere 50 guests per night, you employed roughly 70 staff to see to their needs. On top of that you cooked and experimented with the most expensive ingredients. Despite the high price for a meal on your menu, there can’t be much money left over

The purpose of elBulli was never to make money. Financially, our goal has always been the continuation of the concept. Even universities have examined elBulli as a special case. Overnight it became a magnet, a research center for culinary art.

Is the creation of food more important to you than serving it?

Yes. If I didn’t see it that way I would have no perspective! I can’t make people happy if I’m not happy myself. That applies to anyone who tries to achieve something in their life: if you’re not happy, you can’t transfer any happiness to anyone else. With elBulli, the aspect of creativity was always most important for us. Worrying about whether or not people were able to experience good food and a nice time just wasn’t the point. I developed a couple smaller restaurants with my brother to do that – elBulli was always about much more.