Spaniards for the 21st century

Ferrán Adriŕ
Spanish celebrity chef

Gourmet magazine has called him "the Salvador Dalí of the kitchen". Some regard him as the best chef in Spain. A few have even nominated him as the most creative chef in the world. According the Juan Mari Arzak, who is considered the father of modern Spanish cooking, "Ferrán Adriŕ is the most innovative man in the history of cooking."

Fernán Adriá is the famous chef at El Bulli, a restaurant on the coast of Catalonia. In 1997, El Bulli acquired its third Michelin star, one of only three restaurants in Spain with this ranking. Many are those who make the pilgrimage to this now legendary eatery, in spite of its inaccessible location at the end of a narrow, winding mountain road, or the fact that it only opens five days a week, and is closed for four months of the year while its master is abroad, searching for new inspiration and ideas with which to astound his patrons.

Fernán Adriŕ was born in Hospitalet de Llobregat (Barcelona) in 1962. He started out washing dishes at a restaurant in the town of Castelldefels, where the chef initiated him into the basic the tricks of the trade. He then worked at various restaurants before becoming assistant chef at a well known Barcelona restaurant, Finisterre. That was followed by compulsory military service at the Naval Base of Cartagena, where he worked in the kitchen. Finally, in 1984, at age 22, he joined the staff of El Bulli, and he became head chef eighteen months later.

El Bulli's cuisine was basically traditional French, but the restaurant's manager Juli Soler sent Adriŕ off to acquire new ideas, touring some of the top kitchens in France and learning under the great masters. During the second half of the1980s Adriŕ started his experiments, which were based on the use of fresh materials and adapting classic Mediterranean preparations, giving them a new twist.

Many of these new variations were acheived with his now-famous foams. Basically, this consisted of aerating ingredients with a syphon, introducing minute bubbles to the texture, a technique which is common for some desserts but which Adriŕ applied to savoury dishes. His philosophy is to provide unexpected contrasts of flavor, temperature and texture. Nothing is what it seems. The idea is to provoke, surprise and delight the diner.

The meals at El Bulli are of epic length. The sample menu consists of more than a dozen dishes, accompanied by as many different appertifs. It's a marvellous modern variation on the Spanish custom of enjoying a series of different "tapas" (small appetizers) at bars and taverns at midday.

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