Last month in our sister site Mis Recetas we published an interview with Ferran Adria, Spain’s most famous chef. The interview coincided with the closure of Adria’s world famous restaurant, el Bulli, is to close and he told us his plans for the future with the Bulli Foundation. Here is the English version of the interview with Ferran Adria (original version here: Entrevista con Ferrán Adrià).
The announcement that elBulli which is considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the world surprised all. However, Ferrán Adrià’s who is recognised as one of the planet’s best chefs now has his eye on the future – elBulliFoundation, and is filled with same passion and vision as ever
Considered as one of the most influential chefs in the world Ferrán Adrià has broken all possible barriers and stereotypes with regards to what it means to be a chef.
His creative, innovative ideas have gone further than the kitchen and have touched on other fields including the arts and technology.
He is admired both inside and outside his profession and despite his young age he is now a myth.
You are and will always be one of the most influential people on the international circuit, a universal figure of prestige, a revolutionary that put Catalan and Spanish cuisine firmly on the world stage.
Your talent and successful image and the mythic rise of elBulli, has spread throughout the world as an icon of innovation and global triumph. Have you ever considered or at least thought about dedicating your time to something other than gastronomy?
At the moment professionally I haven’t. But what I like and have done on various occasions and hope to carry on doing in the future is to link cuisine with other disciplines and look for positive synergies between them. I believe that it would be a very interesting thing to do in this field and could reap great rewards.
Few Spanish names are talked about in Harvard, Google, The New York Times or even mentioned in a Hollywood film. Have you ever wondered about working outside Spain for example in the US if you were ever offered an opportunity made to measure with complete creative freedom?
I prefer to work from Spain. However, I don’t rule out the possibility of working in other countries on projects which for various reasons cannot be developed in Spain.
Can the ElBulliFoundation carry on the leadership shown by elBulli with regards to being in the vanguard and come up with new ideas in a similar way to that demonstrated by elBulli over the last decade?
This is one of my objectives. The function of elBulliFoundation is to cement creativity. I hope that with the Foundation a new stage has been established from which we will see how the future develops.
‘Chefs that create without a restaurant. Risk, freedom and creativity’. This all sounds very good although somewhat utopic. What appears clear is that these tendencies are followed by many of the most innovative businesses at the top of their game. Over the years you have developed an I+D culinary crowned by an innovative relationship with many universities including, for example, your collaboration with Harvard University. Will this be one of the future options for the Centre of Creativity which will form part of the elBulliFoundation and the Alicia Foundation? Could elBulli become a world culinary laboratory? (if this country were more innovative it would not be out of the question to create a university in the name of elBulli…in fact you have various honorary Phds…are you tempted by this subject?)
The Foundation has evolved from the Workshops. Creativity without doubt fosters and favours competitiveness amongst businesses. Therefore it is an extremely important factor in the economy of any country or business.
All institutional action which promotes creativity is positive which is why I will always be willing to participate and collaborate in things which help and favour creativity whatever their field.
Our project is creativity which is the area where we are experts. We are not experts in education but yes we would be willing to collaborate in educative projects.
How could the future elBulliFoundation meddle in issues related to food, home cooking (in the past you have spoken about the need to reinvent traditional home cooking to meet the demands of a modern lifestyle) improve quality and healthiness of the food industry? Are you affected by these subjects which as you have said before account for 25% a country’s GDP.
As you said before the Foundation is centred on creativity and the information and work generated will be within the reach of everybody who needs it. I’m sure that the food industry will also take advantage of the creativity and work generated by the Foundation, although nowadays it’s difficult to know in what way or by which means it could do this.
With the transformation of elBulli and new ways of doing things, new projects, every season there will be an elite team of 15 people…There’s a lot of work to be done and many important decisions to take. Questions involving dishes on the menu or the style of architecture can influence the success of this new venture and affect its whole image. I suppose that there’s a queue of architects willing to design the new elBulliFoundation. How do you approach such important decisions?
Well Enric Ruiz Geli is in charge of design. We will try to make the Foundation an exceptional building above all at the level sustainability and integration into its surrounding environment.
What Ferran Adria is leaving behind or putting to one side…
Do you think that so called ‘Ecochefs’ or chefs such as René Redzepi, number 1 on the Pellegrino list, could mark a new tendency for gastronomic critics? In what way do critics affect certain tendencies in world gastronomy? Do you think that the Foundation will be affected by this type of pressure?
In cuisine as in many other disciplines there are cycles. Often the specialized press encourages the emergence of such cycles generating more interest and therefore more news on the subject. It is unquestionable that René Redzepi is establishing a new tendency in cuisine (given that he has a solid style which begun years ago by other important chefs such as Michel Bras or Andoni Luis Adúriz). But I believe that there are few consolidated tendencies which clearly affect a style.
By not being a restaurant we will be on the periphery of this competitiveness. Although undoubtedly we will dedicate ourselves to creativity and will follow closely what happens in restaurants and try to continue developing our cuisine both in terms of techniques and conceptually so it wouldn’t be strange to find the Foundation could once again affect tendencies in the field of cuisine. However, I want to point out that we will not enter into any type of categorization.
The most important tendency when we talk about creative cuisine is creative talent.
On frequent occasions you have mentioned tapas as an excellent part of Spanish culture and culinary heritage and as something which can be exported. Along these lines we have seen for example initiatives such as 41º / Tickets Do you think Spain is capable of using the international prestige that many of its chefs have gained over the last few years to its advantage? What could help it achieve this? What is required to convert traditional Spanish tapas into an exportable commodity?
Unquestionably ‘tapas’ are part of our cultural heritage and have an important economic value in Spain. We need to encourage the export of ‘tapas’ all over the world. If we export ‘tapas’ and our cuisine around the world in a serious and professional way it will have a beneficial affect on certain sectors of our economy. Of course the first sector to benefit would be commerce, tourism and hotels because visits to our country would increase. It would also have positive repercussions on many other sectors of our economy. All Spanish manufacturers and producers would find it easier to sell their products abroad and more value would be placed on these.
We must involve all sectors of the economy so that they work very hard.
A good example of this is Italy. Thanks to the excellent way that Italian cuisine is exported around the world (pasta, pizza mostly) it is one of the strongest exporters in the whole world.
Spain has one advantage over the rest of the world – its privileged cultural relationship with diversity and Latin America. Do you admire any of Latin America’s innovative chefs? In what way can Spanish chefs help to promote or place value on cuisine from places like Peru, Mexico, Argentina…? Are there any plans or a future in helping foster closer collaboration, plans to promote training, diffusion etc between Spanish chefs and those from Latin America? Could this be something the new Creative Centre for the elBulli Foundation is interested in?
Undoubtedly Latin American cuisine will soon become popular around the world. This will happen thanks not only to the work of many professionals (Gastón Acurio, Alex Atala, etc…) but also because of the immense richness of exceptional products that are available there. In the Amazon rainforest for example is a source of marvellous products that in the years to come will become a talking point.
Latin America and Spain are similar in many ways both culturally and historically and I’m sure that over the next few years the relation between both will become even stronger taking into account the increase of the number of Latin American’s living in Spain which logically will affect the food we eat.
Talent and personality
During the years in which you have enjoyed success there will be things which you are very satisfied with and others which you are less happy with. But I’m sure that there are things that you miss. If you could start again what would you change? And will you miss the old elBulli restaurant?
Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. I can’t complain at all about how my life has developed, quite the opposite – I feel that I have been very fortunate. Of course throughout the course of my life I have made a lot of mistakes, but they help me to understand things better and to improve. I believe that in life mistakes teach us a lot. About the old Bulli restaurant – I don’t really know what I’m going to miss about it because my team and I are very excited about the new Project and far from feeling nostalgic about the past we are excited about the future.
You have been an inspiration to many and have gained International recognition and are admired by many chefs all over the world…Creativity that Spreads over into art…You are even an icon for businesses and other creative people who are not involved in cuisine in any shape or form. I am still wondering how you achieve such a level of creativity which appears to have no end. Have you kept anything secret which is not included in your books on the history of the rise of elBulli?
No I don’t have any secrets. But in order to be creative over many years and not get tired of it all you have to have passion. If you aren’t passionate about what you do whether it be your job or discipline that you dedicate your time to then it becomes very difficult to work well or develop professionally. The secret is to work hard and be passionate about what you do. Another important factor is to constantly try to evolve and learn.
Your friend Heston Blumenthal said that it is very complex to juggle your private family life with the activities of a world class chef…up to what point is the family lunch on Sundays sacred. Did this have anything to do with your decision to close El Bulli and start a new project?
Naturally I spend more time with my team than with my family. My working hours are intense and long and in a way its a lifestyle. I don’t have any children and luckily my wife and family have always understood and put up with the personal sacrifices that I have had to make in order to develop in my profession. The decision to transform the elBulli was made thinking more in the team than on a personal level. Years have gone by and everybody has formed their own families and quite naturally want to spend more time with their children, family and friends.
‘Give something back to society’ – colleagues, housewives, the Internet, social networks…
You have said of your new project that you want to create ‘wealth and jobs’ and ‘increase competitiveness in your field’ this is something that a country like Spain needs. In what way do you feel excited and strong enough to lead such a committed and socially ambitious project?
We feel very lucky about the treatment we have received over the years and in a way we feel that we owe something to society. Our commitment is to try and help improve in various aspects our direct environment and society in general both at an economic level (by generating jobs and supporting initiatives that have a positive effect on the environment) like improving food and diet a factor linked directly to health and the economy.
You are admired and held in affection by all your colleagues and have many followers…From the future Foundation you will certainly continue to have an enormous influence…But you have left us out on a limb. Aren’t you leaving the door open for the French or other cuisines to take over the mantle of leadership on the international gastronomic circuit?
No not at all, I’m not going away just changing the stage and format. We will continue working to promote Spanish cuisine and helping our colleagues more than ever.
You have given new status to chefs in general but especially those in Spain. What advice would you give to someone who is beginning to study to be a chef during the current recession in a more difficult social and economic climate? And to a young chef who is thinking about opening up a restaurant during these unstable times?
The restaurant trade is a profession that comes hand in hand with a very difficult lifestyle. Above all you need to be passionate about the profession and be willing to work hard and in many cases make sacrifices.
Your success around the world hasn’t led to you appearing on television or taking part in social network chats like some of your well known colleagues…Could you envisage taking your gastronomic revolution to all households? Would it be an interesting challenge for you to try and increase the gastronomic culture and creativity of a touristic country such as Spain or the US or even the whole world? (We are asking you because we know that once you placed a lot of importance on ‘teaching 30 things that you need to know about cooking…you even suggested that these should be taught in universities…).
We have always tried to do things which help improve peoples’ eating habits at home. More specifically this year we will publish a book on cooking that is about home cooking in elBulli. It is a book in which we talk about what the staff at elBulli eat. It’s about home cooking at reasonable prices, in order to show people how to maintain an attractive diet, cook food which is easy, economic and nutritious.
In the latest edition of ‘Lo Mejor de la Gastronomía’ (The Best of Gastronomy Fair held in Alicante) you are quoted as saying that the Internet and new technology will play an important role in your future projects…this has created a great deal of expectation. Can you expand on this subject?
Naturally at the current time the Internet and new technologies play an important role in any new Project. In the Foundation one of our objectives is to be able to comunícate and reach everybody who is interested in our work which is why the Internet will play an important part in the Foundation and our collaboration with Telefónica we allow us to do this more easily thanks to this we will have the necessary means in order to face new challenges and achieve our goals.
Quick Test for Ferrán Adrià
- An essential ingredient: water
- A special ingredient: salt
- A dish from your childhood: artichoke omelette
- A dish for everyday: Iberian ham (Joselito)
- A smell: the sea
- A wine which should be saved in a shipwreck: sherry
- The best thing about your dishes: the excitement about what I am cooking
- A chef:: Albert Adrià
- A young chef: Paco Morales
- Regional cuisine: Catalan
- International cuisine: Peruvian
- Three essential people in your life apart from Juli Soler and your brother Albert Adrià: Isabel, my mother and my father
- The best memory from elBulli: I hope that I don’t have one yet
- A culinary season (spring, summer etc): all of them have something special about them
- A city to get lost in: Sydney
- A website: Google noticias
- A book: The perfume
- A film: Apocalypse now
- Music: Brazilian
- A work of art: any picture by Miró.
- A very simple recipe for a housewife or househusband who admires your work: chips omelette