Ferran Adria

Ferran Adrià to Young Chefs: You Don’t Have to Change History

Behold, a sphere of Spanish olive oil.
Behold, a sphere of Spanish olive oil. Photo: Melissa Hom

During a NYWFF demo with his pal, D.C. megachef José Andrés, gastro god Ferran Adrià said, “People talk through cuisine, sometimes we understand each other, sometimes we don’t.” This weekend, while Adrià was in town plugging his new book, A Day at elBulli, we had a rare opportunity to talk with him not through cuisine, but rather in the flesh, through a translator. He described how his international interns spare him from Babylon, and named a couple of favorite New York chefs.

Is it true that el Bulli operates at a loss, that it doesn’t make any profit, and that it runs off money from books like this latest one?
Yes, el Bulli is not a restaurant. It’s not a conventional business. It works and functions more like a foundation. It’s only open for six months and only evening dinner. Seventy people work and [there are] only 50 diners.

With so many international chefs in the kitchen, what language is spoken?

Spanish and English. And Catalan, it depends.

Some top New York chefs have come through the el Bulli kitchen. What is your interaction like with the cooks that come for stages [internships]?

There’s a very good atmosphere in the kitchen. I have some relationship and contact with them, but the kitchen staff interact very intensely. One of the rules of el Bulli is if you’ve behaved yourself, done a good job, you can always come back.

Is there anyone in New York who you think is doing something especially creative?
There’s a lot of creative people in the world and in New York as well. We came from Blue Hill with Dan Barber and he’s doing really great things. And he’s really creative in his philosophy and everything he’s doing. There’s a lot of interesting people, and young interesting people. It’s important not to put big pressure on these people as if they had to change the history of cuisine.

With regards to Blue Hill, do you think it’s strange that farm-to-table is a trend here, when in Barcelona you have such amazing markets and it’s a way of life?
It’s from the farm to the table, but it goes through a chef’s hands, and it’s wonderful. The beauty and charm about this is that there are chefs doing different things. A restaurant next to the Boqueria market in Barcelona is a wonderful thing; and a restaurant at a farm is also a great concept.

Where else have you been eating while you’ve been here?
This trip is not about eating, necessarily — this is a working week. I’ll be back in March for a week and I’ll be eating at a lot of different places. We’ve been at Katz’s, we’ve been at Wylie Dufresne’s, Per Se. But it’s mostly due to working relationships, but it was great.

What do you think of Per Se?
If I was American I would be very proud of having a chef like Thomas Keller. He’s a great example for American culture.

Would you ever consider closing el Bulli for a longer period, and having another restaurant?
No, in the end, el Bulli is not a restaurant. There’s no sense talking about that. The most important issue with us is creativity. The end result, the most important thing, is that it should be creative.

Earlier: ‘A Day at elBulli’: An Exclusive Slideshow and Excerpt

Ferran Adrià to Young Chefs: You Don’t Have to Change History