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Ferran Adrià: The biggest mistake is not trying to fail
Food + Drink

Ferran Adrià: The biggest mistake is not trying to fail

Katalan chef Ferran Adrià talks about what he cooks for Christmas dinner, why elBulli matters and how he reshapes the food scene. Again.

How did your love for food start?

– The idea of a good time on the island of Ibiza prompted me to take a job as washing dishes. From there, my career blossomed, culminating in joining elBulli in 1984 and becoming the head chef just one year later.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

– I could say that it is the current moment. My entire career has been based on the passion I have for cooking and creativity. Creating is my passion, and now transforming elBullirestaurante in elBulliFoundation give me the possibility to have a project area based and sustained on creativity, which is my dream.

How would you describe your kitchen management style?

– It reflects my personality: “structured anarchy”. Military discipline with freedom of creativity. And lots of questions on what does around me. My rule is that decontextualisation, irony, spectacle, performance are completely legitimate, as long as they are not superficial but respond to a process of gastronomic reflection.

Few years ago, you’ve announced a ‘cooking laboratory’, museum and database of top recipes at his world-beating restaurant, ‘elBulli foundation’. How the elBulli foundation will reshape the food scene around the world?

– With elBulli foundation we made possible, for the first time in history, the contemporary presence of three different things: an exhibition on the history of cooking and elBulli restaurante (elBulli1846), a cooking research laboratory (elBulli DNA) and a gastronomic encyclopedia in internet (Bullipedia). With elBulli foundation we want to be generous. Knowledge and collaboration with experts from different fields (gastronomic culture, history, industrial design) is essential for progress in cooking. I’m sure that sharing information among cooking professionals will contribute to an important evolution. Another important point is the way in which we are going to share these knowledge. With streaming lessons we will change the way in which information are conveyed: thanks to internet, everyone will be part of a food community, where information are shared in real time. An African chef will be able to “attend” my lessons at the same time of a Japanese chef. For this reason I’m sure that elBulli foundation will reshape the food scene around the world.

Given all your different projects, do you ever worry about one of them falling?

– The journey of creativity is even more important than the finished product. If I were afraid to fail, I wouldn’t have invented so many things. My bigger successes came from mistakes. The biggest mistake is not trying to fail.

Photo Credit: TIME Magazine, 2014

Photo Credit: TIME Magazine, 2014

 

 

Have you ever tried to cook anything ridiculous that’s gone horribly wrong?

– During my career we have tried many things and many times the results have not been as expected. We tried a lot of crazy things, but we have never started from a ridiculous idea, as we always work basing on a good idea. If an idea is ridiculous, we do not develop it.

You seem like the antithesis of the stereotypical shouty chef. Have you always been chilled out?

– Appearance can be deceptive. Calm and respect towards your staff is the secret ingredient to be a good team leader. But if you want to feel “relaxed”, trust me: stay out of a kitchen!

Do you think that you can suck the emotion out of cooking by applying too much science?

– New technologies are a resource for the progress of cooking. It doesn’t mean that, by using them, you get rid of the emotional part of the product you have created. My dishes dialogue with the world of art, science, and design. Like art, is not the way a painting is created (if is made with a particular technique or with a sort of anarchy) but the way in which it communicates to people. My dishes always communicate something, this is what I always aim at.

My dishes dialogue with the world of art, science, and design.

Is there a food you wouldn’t be able to reinvent?

– There’s no need to reinvent something that you have already created. Every dish is unique, as food is a natural product and it can be variable. Due to its nature, also the final result can be variable.

Share us one of your favourite ingredients to cook and the techniques involved.

– All products have the same gastronomic value, regardless of their price. The best challenge is to make great dishes from “poor ingredients”.

Does the pressure greater on you when you cook for guests, or on them when they cook for you?

– In elBulli we have a lot of pressure as we do vanguard food and haute cuisine. The culinary world is watching what we are doing every year, it has many expectations in our work, and we don’t want to disappoint it. But we impose the maximum pressure by ourselves.

How?

– The hard work of the team was a virtue that allowed us to evolve year after year, overcoming problems and allowing us to improve constantly in our work. When I cook I do it without restraint, I cook what I want, and it does not put any pressure on me, on the contrary, I enjoy it. And I realize that in most cases other people who cook for me might have pressure, but the most important thing when cooking is not to feel pressured, but in love with what you’re doing at that time.

Are you cooking Christmas dinner this year?

– I hope so. It is a family tradition that in Christmas time we eat together with my parents and with my brother Albert and our wives. Albert and me, we cook together, and what we do is cook food (especially seafood), very easily.

Who is the head chef at home – you or your wife?

– Because of work reasons, we do not eat often at home. But when we do it, I always cook. She takes care of everything else.

 

Photo Credit: Huck Magazine, 2015

In 2002, you created a solid coffee called èspesso. especially for Lavazza to sell exclusively in their cafes. How did you come up with this idea?

– Everyone thinks about coffee as a beverage. I wanted to think about it like a food. After six months of experimentation working with the Training Center Lavazza, I’ve finally created the first solid coffee, èspesso. A solid coffee made by mixing in a siphon espresso coffee, gelatin, and sugar and using innovative technologies.

Any tips for a really good coffee at home or at work?

– The most important things are the raw matter and the way in which coffee is roasted. But it’s important to have the proper technologies to use too. It’s impossible to have a perfect coffee if all the components and tools used for its preparation aren’t excellent. All the equipment, coffee machine, milling machine must be constantly cleaned and efficient.


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