Sunday, February 8, 2009

The World’s Top Chef, Ferran Adrià, at Documenta

is one of the world‘s most important exhibitions of modern and contemporary art taking place every five years in Kassel, Germany. The twelfth edition of Documenta (from 6/16/07 – 9/23/07) will outsource “Pavilion G” to Ferran Adrià’s restaurant, El Bulli, in Catalonia, Spain. Two lucky exhibit goers are selected each day and flown to the restaurant to indulge in Adrià’s culinary art. Check out this amazing gallery of the chef's work from 1983 - 2005 (excluding 2002, which he took off to reflect on the previous 20 years).

Ferran Adrià began his culinary career as a dishwasher at the Hotel Playafels, in Catalonia. The chef de cuisine at this hotel taught him traditional Spanish cuisine. At 19 he was drafted into military service where he worked as a cook. In 1984, at the age of 22, Adrià joined the kitchen staff of El Bulli as a line cook. Eighteen months later he became the head chef.

El Bulli (the small bulldog) has 3 Michelin stars and is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the Western world. In 2005 it ranked second in the Restaurant Top 50. It was awarded the first place in 2006, displacing The Fat Duck in England. El Bulli has retained this title in 2007.

The restaurant has a limited season from April to September; bookings are taken on a single day in the previous October. It accommodates only 8,000 diners a season, with 800,000 people calling to try and book places - around 400 requests for every table. The average cost of a meal is €250 (US $340); the restaurant itself has operated at a loss since 2000, with operating profit coming from El Bulli-related books, and lectures from Adrià.

Adrià is often associated with "molecular gastronomy,"although the Spanish chef does not consider his cuisine to be of this category. Instead, he has referred to his cooking as deconstructivist. Adrià's stated goal is to "provide unexpected contrasts of flavour, temperature and texture. Nothing is what it seems. The idea is to provoke, surprise and delight the diner."

From The Guardian:

Deconstruction is one of the Adrià inventions that have changed the face of gastronomy. To understand how it works, let's look at what he does with a classic dish of his native land, tortilla española - Spanish omelette. First, he reduces the old-fashioned tortilla to its three component parts: eggs, potatoes and onions. Then he cooks each separately. The finished product, the deconstructed outcome, is one-part potato foam (food-foaming is another technique Adrià has given the world), one-part onion purée, one-part egg-white sabayon. One isolated component is served on top of the other in layers, and topped with crumbs of deep-fried potatoes. The dish, minuscule, comes inside a sherry glass. Adrià, with the playful irony that exists in practically everything he does, names this dish...tortilla española.

From Time:

For each of the 100 days of Documenta (it ends Sept. 23), Noack and director Roger Buergel select two people from the exhibit goers and fly them to dinner at Adrià's restaurant. For the lucky Charlies who win golden tickets to the Chocolate Factory, Adrià is an enthusiastic Willy Wonka. "This is the most beautiful thing I've done," he says about hosting the
Documenta visitors [...]

For the Flögels and El Bulli's 48 other customers that July night, the result of all that investigation and inspiration took the form of spherified olives that, when put in the mouth, exploded with a gush of intensely flavored olive oil. The liquid yolk of a quail's egg came wrapped in a hard, burnished shell tasting of candy. Citrus pulp turned into a tangy risotto.

If they hadn't been invited to El Bulli by Documenta, the Flögels would have been set back nearly $500 for dinner [...] They filed out after midnight with childlike smiles of wonder on their faces. For Adrià, their response only reinforces his core belief about cooking. "Food," he likes to say, "is happiness."

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