EXCLUSIVE: An Interview with Ferran Adrià

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th June 2014
Ferran Adrià has been in the UK attending the elBulli dinners and promoting his new book of elBulli recipes, elBulli 2005-2011, published by Phaidon. During his visit The Staff Canteen was given an online media exclusive interview.   Where are you at the moment with all the elBulli Foundation projects? Ferran Adria The elBulli Lab is already up and running. September 8th could be called the official opening. At elBulli Lab we’re working on two projects – one is called Searching and the other is a project on the entire creative process, not just cooking. Bullipedia is the prototype for a larger concept called Searching; so there could be a Searching on architecture or fashion but Bullipedia itself focuses on western gastronomy. We’re acting as an observatory to help facilitate efficiency and effectiveness in creativity, not just in cooking but in everything. We’re going to write books; we’re going to hold a 1,000 square metre exhibition in Madrid; there’s going to be a Masters programme. As for Bullipedia another concept has arisen, that’s an online Masters programme; this is a project spanning 2014-2017; it’s a work in progress, a huge project. Bullipedia has a number of subsections; there are seven or eight of these participated in by all sorts of people from around the world and there will be a number of restaurants that will form a network; one of them is Mugaritz; the second one is Gastón Acurio in Madrid and the third is El Celler de Can Roca and they will set up a Bullipedia lab in their restaurants and they will serve as a connection back to cooking schools and so forth. For example Andoni at Mugaritz will be working on the analysis of western gastronomy, its history and connecting that back with cooking schools and other restaurants that want to participate, and so we’re now setting up this network – that’s the hard part. We already have a lot of content ready; we have nearly 1,500 metres worth of content at elBulli lab. As of 2nd June there's an exhibition in Barcelona which explains all the stuff I’m talking about now and we hope that Phaidon and Telefonica will take it all around the world. People have been asking what we’ve been doing since we closed the restaurant and if you go there, you’ll see. In terms of elBulli 1846, the entire architectural project is ready; it’s 8,000 square metres worth of narrative, 5,000 indoors and 3,000 outside. Is it a museum? No it’s not. We want it to be a reference point to work out the concept of what future cultural spaces should be like. Vincente Todoli who’s been the director of the Tate Modern for the past seven years, he will be the head curator. The exhibition that’s going to travel to Madrid – that’s the starting point, and we have a new facility called Lab 1846 where we’re working on all the content for 1846. When will that open? In October theoretically we’re beginning the work and in October 2016 we’ll have a trial run and a training period and open our doors to the public in November or December 2016- that’s our dream but it’s a very complex project. Finally there is elBulli DNA which is all about gastronomy and everything we do will be disseminated online. This will be a team of some 30 people plus what we call the agitators or stirrers – the journalists – and that will be eight months a year and they should be the best in class from around the world. We’ll have a very intense selection process. Which of all these projects is proving the most challenging? All of them! We’re mad, because just one would have been incredible but I think either we had to do all three or none of it would have made sense. One is the place – in 300 years that may still exist. Another is the living part, the people, and that’s not as easy to exist in a hundred years, and then there’s Bullipedia which is what will be left on a knowledge level and that will always remain. Do you feel more stretched creatively now than when you were just a chef at elBulli? No, I began at elBulli in 1984 and as time went by I delegated to the rest of the team, and by 2005 elBulli was a well-oiled machine without me; I hardly did anything, just the creativity. Now I’m at the elBulli 1984 moment again but I think it’s going to go faster now. The problem is that there are a lot of things that not even I know how to do so you can’t delegate them. But we’re almost there now; I think it’s going to be all of this year and next year. I work seven days a week, 15 hours a day but we believe we’re doing something important and above all it’s about the challenge. What was our greatest challenge at elBulli restaurant? Nothing was left; we had already achieved everything; we had changed the way that cooking was understood; we had trained 2,000 people some of whom are the foremost chefs these days; we created a number of techniques and elaborations that were just amazing; we had no more awards to win and we had no motivation, so we had to find a new challenge at this level. Do you miss being in the kitchen? Chefs like me don’t cook; what we do is creativity. If I had no contact with people then I would say I missed it but I still have contact with people because I’m always on the go. I just spoke to Joan Roca on the phone, but it’s a different set of rules; I will never be the best restaurant in the world again; I won’t have three Michelin stars. Like I was just telling Joan, this is a project to help people and it gives me incredible freedom, more than ever; I already had a lot of freedom; I did what I wanted when I wanted but being a foundation gives you even more – the only thing you can demand of me is transparency, ethics and honesty. This is a private foundation; there’s no public funding whatsoever, but it’s a different way of looking at things and we want everyone to participate. What continues to inspire you? The challenge. The book that we’ve just published with Phaidon is part of a catalogue of more than 14,000 pages. It’s the most extensive work in the history of cooking but we didn’t write all this just for the landmark, so to speak, it was a challenge for us. We wanted to come up with a different kind of tool because all of the projects I’m telling you about, none of them would have been possible without these books, because that’s where everything was born. From 2000-2012 we did all that work which is the starting point for everything else. Do you think there could be another restaurant like elBulli? Yes I hope that in the future there will be one but it’s very difficult. What really marked elBulli? Number one, the quantity of things you need - it’s impossible to have a menu longer than elBulli’s. Also to carry out a project like elBulli, we needed time; it took us 15 years and nowadays with the internet there is no time. We live in a society that’s mad, where the media has become something different because of social media, and we’re living in schizophrenic times. If you look at Messi – today he’s God but tomorrow he’s the devil. Noma won the best restaurant in the world three times now we’re looking for their replacement, same with El Celler de Can Roca; this leads to a lack of stability and above all a lack of tranquillity. El Celler de Can Roca was built over many years and it’s a solid institution but there are many restaurants these days that just go up and down. There are people who, five years ago, were in the top ten, and now they’re not even on the list, and this is due to the immediacy of things. I can know today what any restaurant in the world is doing with the internet; I used to have to go and eat there. Now is the most creative moment in history. With Nouvelle cuisine in the mid-60s and techno-emotional Spanish – or whatever you want to call it – in the mid-90s, an incredible revolution took place in just a few years. So another revolution – what would it be? Here the media has a very special role – in the midst of all this madness of information, someone needs to order it. There’s no book that explains all the things that we’ve talked about. So many El Bulli 2005-2011things have happened. The other day I saw a story about an Indian man who has the second best restaurant in Asia according to the 50 Best restaurants list. Getting a grasp on all this used to be very easy – it was just France, France and France, full stop. Now it’s happening everywhere so it’s very interesting, and you and I are part of the most incredible generation in history, because we’ve been lucky enough to live through all of this. elBulli did and does have a big role to play in that because the bottom line is you can do it; you just have to be brave – that’s the most important value of elBulli. Watch this space for a chance to win an exclusive copy of elBulli 2005-2011 worth £425 and signed by Ferran Adrià himself.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th June 2014

EXCLUSIVE: An Interview with Ferran Adrià