Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chef Ferran Adria

Ferran Adria has been called the world's greatest chef. He is certainly one of the most creative. Gourmet magazine referred to Adria as "the Salvador Dali­ of the kitchen". His restaurant, El Bulli, was recently named best restaurant in the world by the prestigious Restaurant magazine. Without a doubt, Ferran Adria will hold a prominent place in culinary history.


Ferran Adria was born May 14, 1962 in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat (a suburb of Barcelona), Spain. Adria's early schooling took place in Barcelona and at the age of 14 he enrolled at the Instituto Verge de la Merci¨ to study business administration. In 1980, at the age of 18, he left school out of boredom.

Culinary Beginnings:

Adria began his culinary career in 1980 as a dishwasher. In need of money to vacation on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, Adria took a job as dishwasher at a French restaurant in the Hotel Playafels in Castelldefels, Spain.

It was here that he learned the classic culinary techniques as the chef there introduced AdriĆ  to El Practico, the Spanish equivalent of Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire. Adria eventually made it to Ibiza, working at the Club Cala Lena for four months in 1981-1982.

Military Service:

He returned to Barcelona and worked at a number of restaurants before finally landing a job at the celebrated Finisterre, where he became assistant chef. Adria left Finisterre to fulfill his compulsory military service. He was in the Spanish Navy stationed at the Naval Base of Cartagena. He was a member of the captain general's kitchen staff and eventually was in charge of a kitchen for the first time in his life.

Adria meets El Bulli:

Adria completed his service in August 1983. Soon after leaving the navy, he was given the chance to do a stage (tryout) at El Bulli in Roses, Spain. Apparently the chef liked what he saw and Adria was offered the job of Chef de Partie (line cook). Adria was 22 years old at the time. Eighteen months later he would become head chef.

El Bulli Becomes a Star (actually 3 stars):

Before the arrival of Adria, El Bulli was relatively unknown. Despite its remote location (El Bulli is located in the small town of Roses on the coast of Catalonia, about two hours north of Barcelona at the end of a narrow, winding mountain road.), it has 3 Michelin stars and is ranked the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine.

El Bulli was known as a traditional French restaurant. When Adria joined the staff, the restaurant's manager Juli Soler recommended he travel to find fresh ideas to use at El Bulli. Adria went to some of France's top restaurants where he acquired a massive collection of techniques from many of the great culinary masters.

Molecular Gastronomy:

In the late 1980's, Adria began performing cooking experiments which would forever change El Bulli's place in culinary history. Adria's experiments are often associated with Molecular Gastronomy, the application of science to culinary practices and cooking phenomena. His creations are designed to surprise and enchant his guests but the importance of taste is always the ultimate goal.

Culinary Foam & the Future:

He is best known for creating "culinary foam", which is now used by chefs around the world. Culinary foam consists of natural flavors (sweet or savory) mixed with a natural gelling agent. The mixture is placed in a whipped cream canister where the foam is then forced out with the help of nitrous oxide.

In keeping with the creative goals of El Bulli, the restaurant closes for six month each year during which time Adria travels for inspiration and performs experiments and perfects recipes in his culinary lab, El Taller.

In 2006, after many years as number 2, El Bulli moved to the top spot in Restaurant magazine's list of best restaurants in the world. Still a young man (44), we can expect to see many more great things from Ferran Adria. They will most undoubtedly be unexpected yet wonderful things.


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