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 named the best restaurant in the world by the prestigious Restaurant magazine five times. After closing the restaurant in 2011, he has gone on to begin writing a culinary encyclopedia, launching the El Bulli Foundation, and collaborating on culinary projects. 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 in 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.
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 a 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 Adrià 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 and 1982.
He returned to Barcelona and worked at a number of restaurants before finally landing a job at the celebrated Finisterre, where he became the 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. It 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. 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. The restaurant had garnered one Michelin star before Adria, but under his leadership, it earned two stars in 1990 and three stars in 1997.
In the late 1980s, 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.
He is best known for creating "culinary foam", which is now used by chefs around the world. A 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 would close for six months each year during which time Adria traveled for inspiration, performed experiments. and perfected recipes in his culinary lab, El Taller.
The restaurant itself operated at a loss, despite charging a large price tag for a meal and having millions of diners clamoring to get one of the 8,000 reservation seats offered each season. Adria's books on El Bulli helped keep it afloat until the decision to close in 2011.
After El Bulli
The El Bulli restaurant has been transformed into El Bulli Foundation. A museum, named El Bulli 1846, will open in Girona, Spain to showcase the innovative cuisine created there. Adria is writing a culinary encyclopedia, beginning with "Bebidas," a deep dive into drinks. He is developing a digital platform for an online culinary encyclopedia. Meanwhile, he collaborates on projects with other culinary wizards.