Yesterday evening I had the privilege of being in the presence the one and only Ferran Adrià at the Glen Gould studio. Toronto was one of his stops during his North American tour to promote his new collection of books el Bulli 2005-2011. Each of the 7 volumes catalogues every dish made that year. He is pure genius. His energy is magnetic. He lives his life passionately. Most notably he is jovial and generous.
He walked us through the history, analysis and creativity of cooking. He shared some interesting facts about the origins of cooking as it started during the neolithic period. He explained to us that nothing much has changed since then except for having refined the tools we use today. During the analysis portion he showed us that any particular food has so many different facets. For example, he asked us if a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. There was no clear answer. How it can be transformed into a soup, sauce or even a sorbet. It is no longer just a tomato.
Finally, he went through his massive current initiative: the el Bulli Foundation which consists of 3 projects:
1. el Bulli 1846: a museum located at the site of the restaurant. It will take you through the history of gastronomy, how a kitchen works and how to cook.
2. el Bulli DNA: a creative team of handpicked chefs who share their innovative food ideas on the internet.
3. Bullipedia lab: also available through the internet, a tool where the gastronomical world can research and gain knowledge. It will codify and classify food.
At the end, during the Q&A one of the audience members asked what his favorite food texture was. His answer: the texture of caviar. He generally prefers gelatinous textures. He also gave advice to young chefs, which also applies to those not in the trade. He insisted to be patient. He said it took him 15 years to reach 3 Michelin stars whereas today young chefs can get them in 3 years. It’s not their fault though. It’s the system, the journalists and critics who are always looking for the next best thing. One day a chef is in the paper and the next vanished. He basically said he was a “slow cook.” Finally, he ended by delivering a genuine message. To seek happiness and not success. If one is happy with their profession success will come naturally. He said if he wasn’t happy doing what he is doing now he’d be on a beach somewhere with his wife.
This is a man whose restaurant never made a penny. Because he knew it could not survive forever, he transformed it into the Foundation to leave behind a legacy. The foundation is currently funded privately by his own and another family. Ferran Adrià is an inspiring chef, innovator and extraordinary human being.