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Anu Gulmohar takes you into the world of new age cooking and brings you an exclusive interview with the man shaping a new language in gastronomy – Ferran Adrià
the sunday indian 72 6 july 2008

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Enter the home of culinary innovation
Anu Gulmohar takes you into the world of new age cooking and brings you an exclusive interview with the man shaping a new language in gastronomy – Ferran Adrià

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the sunday indian 73 6 july 2008

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Cappuccino of mint-flavoured baby broad beans

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aute cuisine has always been the prerogative of french chefs, but there’s a man in their neighbouring country who has been leading a revolution from his kitchen. ferran adrià's been on the cover of the Time magazine, which listed him among the most influential men of our times; he’s been on the cover of The New York Times magazine too; and acknowledging his work, france’s Le Monde sunday edition too featured him on their cover. every year about 600 of the most respected chefs, restaurateurs, critics and gourmands decide on the 50 best restaurants in the world, and

elbulli, the three-Michelinstarred restaurant run by ferran adrià, has come out on the top of the heap in 2002, 2006, 2007 and in 2008 too. People with the evolutionary advantage of being able to look foodwards for more reasons than bare- bones survival, have been developing an appetite, or would you rather, a palate, for new, exotic cuisines, both in india and abroad, and i personally, unashamedly, adhere to the trend. Thinking about ferran adrià and his ‘development squad’ working 15 hours a day, creating new dishes to savour, deserts to ravish and sensations to cherish is tremendously exciting for

ferran adrià and his ‘development squad’ work 15 hours a day, creating new dishes
foodies like me. ferran’s unconventional creations, like sour ice creams (!), mozzarella and caviar pizzas, and foams, shocked the world and attracted much scepticism at first. slowly, shock turned to awe and this spaniard began to be compared with Picasso, who once lived

in a village not too far from elbulli. if Picasso invented cubism and gave a whole new direction to art, adrià is inventing a delectable new language in cooking. Considering ferran adrià is the presiding god of haute cuisine, the journey up to his 'temple' is no less than a pilgrimage. it is a long, long journey to elbulli. getting to roses, at the outskirts of which is this restaurant, was not easy as pie either. as i covered the last leg of my journey sitting in a cab, i found myself drawing further and further away from the bustling world, as if psychologically, i was being prepared to let go of my notions and beliefs, and open myself to a whole new world. elbulli has not a whiff of the sophisticated jazz that i’d half expected to find at the 'world’s best restaurant'; instead, a warm, welcoming restaurant, overlooking the Cala Monjoi bay greeted me. “The possibility of finding new paths, new roads, new things, is very important. There are jobs that you can’t go further with, whereas in cooking, you can keep discovering new ways,” said the 46-year-old master chef to me. but the road isn’t always easy, and is almost always strewn with sceptics and competition trying to bring you down. still ferran doesn’t consider a dose of courage vital for those moving on from reinventing recipes to creating their own marvels. “it is not a question of being courageous, but a question of whether you’re free; for if you’re free then only you can be creative,” said ferran. 1987 was the year when he discovered his

the sunday indian 74 6 july 2008

world's best chef
freedom, when he found himself solely in charge of the kitchen at elbulli. This was also the year when french chef jacques Maximin’s words, “Creativity means not copying,” spurred him and his team to leave cook books aside and create their own culinary identity. “There was a whole cycle that was a lot of fun; from 1994 on... it was a turning point in cooking, because this period set the path to a new language.” This was the time when ferran and his team began to truly understand the nature of the products they used and began laying the foundation for entirely new techniques and concepts. They didn’t permit long-standing dogmas to limit their creativity, and figured that vegetables traditionally used in savoury dishes, like tomatoes, peas and beetroots would be perfect for sweeter dishes, while fruits like raspberries and passion fruits, due to their acidic properties, would be just right for savoury dishes! They introduced items like pop-corns, oreo cookies, lollipops in haute cuisine and toyed with whether air could be considered a product! This speculation led to their invention of foams – an airy essence of literally any edible product, from almonds and coriander to coconuts, white beans and potatoes – by using siphons and liquid nitrogen. The concept of creating these foams has today been adopted by hundreds of chefs worldwide. Thus, the aroma from adrià’s kitchen spread afar as more and more people recognised him as a pioneer of ahem...

french chef jacques maximin’s words, “creativity means not copying,” spurred him to leave cook books aside
'Molecular gastronomy'. adrià’s school of cooking came up with another new concept – deconstruction (!!). What this implied was that they would deconstruct a dish and analyse its individual components. Then, by using science, reconstruct it in such a manner that on tasting it, a person would recognise the original properties, and would be delighted with its new form. so when they deconstructed the classic indian chicken curry, they came up with curry ice cream! elbulli is closed in the winters for six months, and they dedicate this period every year to whip up wholly new dishes for the next year’s menu. This is also when they travel and try out restaurants in different parts of the world, looking for inspiration and perhaps for more dishes to deconstruct! “The best restaurants in the world are in spain,” believes the spaniard, “but i am also in love with japanese food. There are some wonderful restaurants in tokyo,” ferran reveals. i wonder aloud if that is the reason why most of his creations revolve around sea food and veggies, instead of the european staple of red meat. “no,” replied ferran, “that’s just because i seem to be incapable of creating anything new with red meat! i could do plenty of good things with it, but not new things.” and then he tells me something that should be of interest to a majority of indians, “if vegetarians come here, i prepare a vegetarian menu with 30 dishes in total.” People who consider visiting elbulli the next time they travel to spain, should keep in mind that this restaurant receives about 8,00,000 requests for a table each season, and are able to accommodate just 8,000 diners! lately, a controversy sparked off when another top spanish chef, santi santamaria declared that adrià’s style of cooking had harmful side effects. attached to the traditional style of cooking, santamaria’s accusations

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1. Textured vegetable panaché 2. Peach sandwich with apple, courgette and celeriac 3. Mackerel with smoked romesco and goat cheese 4. Smoked shoulder of Iberian pork stew

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of adrià potentially poisoning his customers led to detailed and heated discussions between the pro- and anti-adrià camps. a few days ago, ferran appeared on spanish state television and said, “it has been made clear that these products are totally healthy and they have been used for 50 years.” and giving an example of exactly how they use the chemicals, ferran said, “the best chocolate in the world contains lecithin, which makes it more fluid... and what we've done is take this to serve in another dish”. sitting by me at the table at elbulli, a few weeks before this storm brew-up, ferran had said, “i have been accepting critics for the past 30 years. but the more one finds out about our food, the more their perception changes. some people find me to be eccentric because they don’t know me. but i am a very average man. to create, i have to do something different, and at times it can be shocking.” back home, anchor of the show Rasm-e-Rasoi, chef nikhil rastogi of The Park speaks highly of ferran and his team. “They do a lot of r&d. They've done so much for the culinary world. i think that nobody else has been able to achieve even half of what they have... like grilled watermelons, something nobody can even think of doing!” “experimentation is really important,” he continued, “as we really get bored with the same cuisine, the same masalas and the same tadkas day in and day out. We need to find new things.” Chef anurag bali, executive sous Chef, The Claridges, new delhi too had only praises to sing for the guru of avantgarde cuisine. “ferran adrià has played a key role in giving food a whole new di-

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coconut cloud with a chilled tropical gazpacho,” said bali. in another 20 minutes elbulli was to open for the evening. reaching the end of my rendezvous with ferran, i asked him when his work would be complete. “Well, never,” ferran had replied. “We work in a team. it’s the whole team that’s working here, not just me. i really don’t know if it will ever be completed.” i guess culinary exotica like hot icecreams, frothy truffle cappuccinos, toasted popcorns with chocolate covering, egg yolks encased in caramel, lollipops created out of vegetables and other such ingenious delicacies will be coming out of the kitchens of elbulli for a long, long time to come. With inputs from Aakriti Bhardwaj

mension; experimenting with ingredients to produce new and exciting flavours. he has greatly inspired chefs from the world over to look at creativity from a different perspective, and has given the culinary world a new eclectic cuisine.” People living in delhi can get a taste of ferran’s innovative dishes at The Claridges’ spanish restaurant, sevilla. “We serve tomato vanilla foam, and a

exotica like hot ice-creams and egg yolks encased in caramel will still be coming out of elBulli's kitchens

the sunday indian 76 6 july 2008

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