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Creativity: Ferran Adrià1

“While there are many exciting chefs throughout Spain, … the man who is redefining haute cuisine into alta
cocina is a prodigiously talented, self-taught Catalan Ferran Adrià”.
The New York Times Magazine, August 10th 2003

“The latest wave in cooking incorporates ingredients from all over the world, in unlikely combinations. The
emblem of this movement is Ferran Adrià, the chef-owner of elBulli, on the Costa Brava, in Spain...”.
The New Yorker, May 12th 2003

“elBulli, the best restaurant in the world”.
Restaurant Magazine, 2007

elBulli is happiness, a new way of understanding and practicing haute cuisine that seeks to
make diners happy for the duration of the meal. Built on the legacy of the original
restaurant founded in Cala Montjoi more than 45 years ago, the evolution of elBulli is the
outcome not only of exuberant imagination, but also of hard work and persistence. While
Ferran Adrià is elBulli’s most visible face, the restaurant is the creation of a great team and
not of a lonely genius: “To stay at the top, you need the very best team. What makes us
different is that we’re one big family and we have the best possible team”, explains the
chef.2

This talented, committed and ebullient family has a nucleus that endures over time and
ensures its stability and fringe members that change over the years, allowing for its
continuous renewal. The nucleus consists of the restaurant’s owners, Ferran Adrià and Juli
Soler, 50% each of elBulli in all respects. They define their relationship as a marriage, and
as the chef explains, “I take care of creating new dishes, and Juli and I deal equally with
financial matters”. As for the brothers Ferran and Albert, their creative relationship is a
“perfect symbiosis”: “Ferran and I have a great creative relationship, expressed in the
connection and harmony that are produced between his creations and mine. This results in a
sense of continuity during the meal”, explains Albert. 3 Similarly strong is the relationship
of Albert Adrià and Oriol Castro, the pair that - along with Ferran Adrià – is at the heart of
the creativity workshop. In addition, a series of other first rate chefs who could have
opened and successfully run their own elite restaurants carry on working with Ferran in
elBulli.
***

1
© 2007 Marcel Planellas y Silviya Svejenova, Professors of the Business Policy Department, ESADE
Business School, 60-62 Pedralbes Av., 08034 Barcelona, Spain. This manuscript has been prepared on
the basis of the presentation “Creativity: Ferran Adrià”, which took place at ExpoManagement on 24
May 2006 in Madrid.
2
Adrià, in Oppenheim, C.H. (2003). La magia de Ferran Adrià. Bonvivant. August, p. 31.
3
Albert Adrià, in Wright, C (2001). ElBulli: The Science of Desert. Pastry Art & Design, February, p. 46.

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THE (HUMBLE) BEGINNINGS OF THE WORLD’S BEST RESTAURANT
elBulli started out as a modest minigolf course in 1961. Its founders, the German
homeopath Hans Schilling and his wife of Czechoslovakian origin, Marketta, named the
business elBulli after bulli, as they playfully called their French bulldogs. Two years later,
the elBulli golf course became a beach bar frequented by local diving enthusiasts, before
being converted in 1964 into a restaurant serving roast chicken and barbecue fish along
with other simple dishes. It was in the 1970s that the restaurant began to serve more
sophisticated, French dishes including flambéed sea bass and fennel and double sirloin
steak with béarnaise sauce. The French influence became even more pronounced with the
arrival of chef Jean-Louis Neichel in 1975. A year later, the restaurant was awarded its first
Michelin star. When the restaurant was closed in the winter, Neichel was sent to work with
a distinguished French chef and visited leading European restaurants in search of
inspiration. In 1981, however, Neichel announced that he was moving to Barcelona, and
Marketta began to seek a new team. This was when she met Juli Soler in a bar. Following
an interview with Dr. Schilling, Marketta’s husband, Juli was hired on December 25th 1981
to manage one of the best restaurants in Catalonia. This is how Juli Soler remembers it:

At that time, a table at elBulli was already different to tables in other restaurants in
Spain. Even the cutlery, glassware and china were imported from Germany and
drew their inspiration from the great restaurants of the time, belonging to Alain
Chapel, Jacques Pic, and so on. The service, consideration – in short, the way the
restaurant was run, were also based on these models. … the Doctor suggested I do
two months of intensive travelling, visiting the best restaurants in France, Belgium
and Germany. On my return, in the middle of March 1981, I was ready to face my
first season as manager. … elBulli was an enchanting place, getting there was
almost an adventure, but thanks to our clientele and word of mouth, Germans,
French and a good many Catalans came to savour a cuisine that, although very
different to that of today, was already in the forefront of new European trends.
Jean-Paul Vinay’s menu was very much in the nouvelle cuisine line, with light
influences from his home town, Lyon, and from Michel Guérard, as one of the last
places he had worked had been in his restaurant; and added to all this was the
quality of the best produce from our region: the best home-grown vegetables,
succulent fish and shellfish, and so on. And then, of course, there was our
philosophy, our interest above all in giving pleasure to the diner, so that he would
leave the place a satisfied and happy man. In fact, inspired by unwritten, but ever-
present guidelines, we ensured, and still do, that the atmosphere in elBulli was
unique.4

Ferran Adrià entered elBulli in 1983 on one month’s leave from his military service in the
navy in Cartagena. His previous experience in other restaurants had enabled him to work in
the admiral’s kitchen where he had to serve a new menu every day. This is Adrià’s
explanation of what happened in that era:

By chance, at the beginning of that year, another budding young chef, also Catalan,
was posted to the kitchen to assist me. He was Fermí Puig, now chef at the
prestigious Drolma restaurant in Barcelona. … As everyone knows, military

4
Source: History of elBulli (www.elBulli.com).

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service has its rules, its hierarchies, its rituals and customs. In that kitchen, the old
hand was me, and the new boy, Fermí. Whether it was to win my confidence or to
share experiences outside the barracks, the fact was that that spring, he suggested
that during our month’s leave in August, I should do a stint in elBulli, a restaurant
on the Costa Brava where he had worked. He told me it was one of the best in
Spain, and that it had two Michelin stars. Little did he know that at that time I had
no idea what that meant. However, I took note of what he said and perhaps began
making plans to spend a pleasant summer at the beach; in fact this is probably what
influenced my decision, rather than the idea of going to work in a restaurant during
my month’s leave. Meanwhile, we devoted ourselves to our first culinary
experiments, and I made my first foray into nouvelle cuisine guided by chefs such
as Michel Guérard and the Troisgros brothers, thanks to the books that Fermí had
brought with him. For several months, we copied the dishes from these recipes and
served them to the Admiral. … This was "act one" of the five acts making up my
career in El Bulli, five decisive moments that may be summarised as follows: the
summer job in 1983, joining the staff at the end of March 1984, my promotion to
chef de cuisine along with Christian Lutaud in October 1984, taking over the
kitchen on my own in March 1987 and the setting up of the partnership with Juli in
1990. The most remarkable thing about all this is that chance was what determined
my career, except for the last item, which was the only thing consciously planned.
Everything else happened as I have related it, it is true, but it could easily have
turned out otherwise. The only thing I am sure of is that elBulli changed my life
and made me what I am. It only remains for me to thank all those who have done
their bit to turn elBulli into something more than just a restaurant: it is a way of
understanding life.5

Ferran thoroughly enjoyed his one-month stay at elBulli, and at the end of his military
service, he joined the restaurant in March 1984. In October of that year, he and Christian
Lutaud became the head chefs, jointly responsible for the modest kitchen of about 50
square metres. Very few people used to come to the restaurant between October and
January, so the co-chefs had time to visit the greatest restaurants of French haute cuisine
and complete their training with some of their famous chefs. Ferran went to work with
Georges Blanc and Jacques Pic, and Christian, with Troisgros and Michel Chavran. In
1985, Albert Adrià, Ferran’s younger brother, joined the elBulli team, specialising in
desserts as time went by. Between 1983 and 1986, the elBulli team conducted a thorough
overhaul of its legacy of classical cuisine and nouvelle cuisine, producing its own versions
of these recipes.

In 1987 Ferran became the restaurant’s only chef and discovered his growing commitment
to the profession. A simple sentence left an indelible stamp on the direction of his career,
“Creativity means not copying”, something he had heard the famous French chef Jacques
Maximin say in 1987 in a demonstration he was giving at the Escoffier Foundation in
Cannes. These are Adrià’s thoughts:

This simple sentence was what brought about a change in approach in our cooking,
and was the cut-off point between "re-creation" and a firm decision to become
involved in creativity. After getting back to the restaurant, we were convinced that

5
Source: History of elBulli (www.elBulli.com).

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we needed to use major cookery books less and less and try to find an identity of
our own. This was the start of our plunge into creativity in elBulli.6

Inspired by Maximin, Adrià embarked upon a search for creativity and personal style. By
1996 his commitment to creativity had crystallised and the chef and his team were
convinced that “creativity, surprise and innovation would be the driving forces in elBulli”.7

***

THE BIRTH OF A SINGULAR STYLE
The passion for creativity that Adrià had just discovered unleashed a search for freedom. In
1987, elBulli began to close for five months, a period that was subsequently extended to
half a year from October 1st to April 1st. What was originally a necessity imposed by a lack
of demand and the massive overheads of keeping the restaurant open, became a basic
characteristic of the elBulli business model after a few years: being the only way for the
team to keep up the high standards of creativity it was committed to.
The spare time gained by closing the restaurant was duly dedicated to learning from two
very advanced chefs of that period, Michel Bras and Pierre Gagnaire. Adrià explains how
they influenced the elBulli approach to cuisine in these terms:
From Gagnaire we learnt something that may be summed up thus: “Everything is
possible”. With Bras we discovered sensitivity, the world of nature, respect for the
pronounced flavour of each product, to a level that we had never experienced up to
then, a cooking concept based on purity. The enthusiasm they aroused in us began
to mark our cuisine, with a combination of a regional-based style, which had been
our trademark up to then, and a more avant-garde style that had no roots.

The team’s efforts began to pay off. In 1990, elBulli regained the second Michelin star it
had had in the previous decade. The Academia Nacional de Gastronomía awarded Juli
Soler the distinction of the best maître d’hôte, and two years later Ferran Adrià received the
best chef award. But what made 1990 different from any other year in the history of elBulli
was the constitution of elBulli, S.L. by Juli Soler and Ferran Adrià and their purchase of the
restaurant from the Schilling family. This gave them free hand for designing elBulli’s
future.

This recently-acquired freedom was applied first to the elBulli facilities, and in 1991 the
development of a massive infrastructure was undertaken: the car park and patio were
remodelled, but the dining area was left untouched. Nevertheless, the heaviest investment
occurred in 1993 in the new kitchen which expanded from its original 50 sq.m. to a
spacious area totalling 325 m² with the very finest fittings. Inspiration was drawn from
French masters such as, for example, the Troisgros brothers of Roanne.

6
Source: History of elBulli (www.elBulli.com).
7
Adrià, F.A., Soler, J., & Adrià, A. (2003). elBulli 94-97, p. 271.

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However, Ferran Adrià was aware that the new kitchen was not enough if they were to
maintain the highest standards of creativity. In 1994 he and his team realised that if their
cuisine was to progress, their efforts should be channelled beyond the creation of new
recipes and towards the creation of new concepts and techniques:
From then on, the technique-concept search was our main creative pillar, without
abandoning other styles and methods, and this gave rise in subsequent years to our
foams, new pasta, new ravioli, the frozen savoury world, new caramelisation, and
so on. Technique-concept creativity almost certainly marks the most important
difference between a cuisine that is merely creative and one that is constantly
evolving.

The technical and conceptual creativity that the team embarked upon laid the foundations
for the singular elBulli style, which they described in 23 key points that define their
approach (see Appendix 1).

***

PASSION FOR CREATIVITY
Ferran Adrià’s passion for creativity arose in the wake of Maximin’s emblematic phrase
“Creativity means not copying”, a passion that the chef and his team began to manifest in a
variety of ways. In 1992, for example, Adrià spent the entire winter with the sculptor
(friend and customer) Xavier Medina Campeny in his Palo Alto workshop in the Poblenou
district of Barcelona. There Ferran created dishes (without having to cook in the restaurant)
whilst Xavier made sculptures. They then ate Ferran’s creations and talked about art. This
exposed Adrià to a creative mind and a hitherto unknown art world with all its possibilities
for inspiration and gastronomic innovations that these opened up. This was the seed of the
idea for the famous elBulli creativity workshop: a new concept in the profession at that
time which gradually spread throughout the haute cuisine world, making increasing
demands for on-going creativity.

Two years later, in response to the need to professionalise the creative process, a creative
team was constituted. The members of the team developed new ideas in their spare time
before and after the restaurant opening hours since it was not yet possible to have anyone
dedicated fulltime to creativity on the elBulli’s pay roll.

1995 was another emblematic year in the development of the elBulli creative model. The
first creativity workshop prototype emerged in the Talaia restaurant in the Barcelona
Olympic Port. This is the tale of elBulli in that period:

… the consolidation of our winter closure period gave us a few months to
concentrate solely on the creative process without having to worry about daily
service in the restaurant. We needed to find a place where we could work in total
liberty and tranquility, and the solution came with the opening of the Talaia
restaurant in the Olympic Port in Barcelona, for which we were consultants at the

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time. So, we often used to go to the Talaia’s kitchen between 4 and 7pm to conduct
our experiments. We did this right through the year, although it was not until 1996
that this activity became consolidated, with the collaboration, through the Talaia, of
Marc Singla, Carles Abellán and Sergi Arola. They were two extremely fruitful
years, when we made definite strides towards realising our dream, a Workshop
devoted exclusively to creativity the year round.

When elBulli received its third Michelin star in 1997, it was increasingly difficult to
combine constant creativity with the absorbing demands of the business. The idea of a
workshop devoted to creativity, said Adrià, “occurred the day I realised how difficult it was
to combine constant creativity with very little spare time and all the obligations and
responsibilities entailed in running a restaurant”.8 It was another emblematic French chef,
Joël Robuchon, who advised them to separate the creative activity from work in the
restaurant:

…we gradually came round to the idea of the need to set up a workshop, but we did
not know how and where to do so. The first step that occurred to us, and the most
reasonable, was to visit a culinary workshop to see how it worked, and on that
basis, set up our own tailor-made workshop. But to our surprise, after asking a good
many professionals in the sector, we realised that nobody knew of any
establishment of this type. So we decided that, rather than taking on too much risk
at the start, we would set up our workshop in the premises of our outside catering
company in the Barcelona Aquarium. In the beginning, we made use of a corner of
the office for our theory work, and a section of the kitchen for our experiments.
Albert and Oriol devoted themselves exclusively to the Workshop, while Ferran
divided his time between there and his work in elBulli.

In 2000, the workshop moved to permanent, purpose-built facilities in an eighteenth-
century palace on Portaferrissa street in Barcelona. The workshop began to combine the
restaurant’s need for creativity with a string of other activities that the elBulli team had
been developing. In 2001, they began to open the restaurant evenings only since the nature
of their menus required a great deal of time and work, making it difficult to serve two
sittings a day. This made it possible to use the restaurant’s kitchen facilities to experiment
more which in turn increased creative opportunities.

elBullitaller was, as the chef liked to call it, a home for pure creativity. Its aim was to
provide new ideas for the restaurant each year. Open all year round, it employs twelve
professionals organised in four different teams with an annual investment of some 250,000
euros. The latest development was the incorporation of a scientific department into the
workshop, for they had realised that the scientific processes involved in cooking were the
basis for its evolution.

In the workshop, the chef and his team painstakingly recorded every combination made
during the experimentation and creation process. Similarly meticulous note-taking occurs
when the team goes “idea hunting”. Adrià explains what they do. “We jot down everything
that catches our eye in a notebook and when we get home, we transfer these notes to a
8
Oppenheim, C.H. (2003). La magia de Ferran Adrià. Bonvivant. August, p. 29.

6
general notebook along with lots more ideas not always related to our travels. When we
decide to start work on the following season, this is the database we use. The dishes
prepared in elBulli the following year come out of all these notes”. Jotting down these ideas
helped them at the end of a period, usually a year, to identify the new ideas that have
cropped up and to come up with a sort of annual report on creativity. Just like in R&D labs,
of the some 5,000 experiments conducted in the workshop, about 125 recipes were finally
incorporated into the following year’s menu (see Appendix 2 for the 2006 season menu).

***
THE BUSINESSES

“I’m not a businessman. In fact, I don’t even like business. I’ve done this, quite simply, to achieve creative
freedom”. Ferran Adrià

Although the workshop was the source of constant stream of new ideas, it was the business
that paid the bills and made the elBulli business model financially sustainable. Revenue
was generated mainly through consulting projects and elBulli’s own businesses. These were
a means to an end. As the chef explained, “I was never mad about the business side of
things. First, it was a search for survival and later, for creative freedom”. In this respect,
Adrià comments, “I run a catering business and am gradually incorporating what I have
discovered in elBulli. I call it prêt-à-manger. I can’t use this name for the company because
it’s already been registered in London, but the concept is perfect: autumn-winter and
spring-summer cuisine collections”.9

Consulting Projects. In 1999 elBulli started offering consulting service. Their first client
was the Borges group, one of the main producers of Mediterranean diet foodstuffs and the
owner of everything from agricultural plantations to subsidiaries selling packaged products.
Specifically, the elBulli team collaborated with their oil business, developing aromatic oils,
vinaigrettes and other products. The consulting services were focused on providing
distinguishing features for products and services on the market, mainly in the food, drinks
and hotel industry. These activities required certain organisational adjustments that led to
the creation of a new space – elBullicarmen – not far from the chef’s creativity workshop,
on the other side of the Rambla in Barcelona, near the famous Boquería market at the heart
of Barcelona.:

During 2000 and 2001, the Workshop overflowed with activity. On the one hand,
we were concerned about creativity for the restaurant, but then there were other
projects on the go, like elBullihotel, we acted as consultants for companies (Kaiku,
Caprabo, Borges, NH and Lavazza, among others) and wrote up this work. All
these interests together represented too much activity, total madness. … To ensure
that the strict creativity for the restaurant was in no way affected by this expansion
of our other activities, we had to devote the Workshop in Carrer Portaferrissa
9
Adrià, in Fancelli, A. (1999). Ferran Adrià: El mejor cocinero del mundo. El País Semanal, p. 22.

7
exclusively to this purpose. At the same time, we wanted to give a specific space
and team to these new activities, and here elBullicarmen came fully into its own.
They are two sides of the same coin, two personalities in a single body ...: one
focused on creativity for the restaurant, the other was devoted to the businesses,
although also creatively.10

Ferran Adrià was particularly proud of the collaboration with NH Hotels, a company he and
his team had developed two revolutionary concepts for: Nhube and Fast Good. NH Hotels
had hired him to modernise their restaurants, and the first thing the great chef suggested
was that they close them and then reopen them with a new concept. Nhube was a new,
multi-purpose space in NH Hotels designed to act as an all-in-one restaurant, reading room,
lounge and cafe-bar. The fare was a range of simple, traditional, homemade Spanish dishes
giving the impression of being at home. Another revolutionary concept the chef developed
for NH Hotels was Fast Good: reworked fast food that acknowledged the changes in social
habits and attempted to deal with them by applying a dignified concept of fast food. In
addition to NH Hotels, the chef offered consulting services and developed concepts for
multinational food and drink companies such as Lavazza, Nestlé, Pepsico and United
Biscuits.

Collaborations. elBulli’s relationship with the design world dated back to the mid 1990s
when they contacted young designers in Barcelona to help them create new serving dishes
that suited their culinary creations. They have also worked in conjunction with CIM
(Cerámica Industrial Montgatina - Montgatean Industrial Ceramics) to create sets of
crockery and ICC (International Cooking Concepts) on the production of cooking utensils
such as the famous PacoJet. Items with a marked character and personality have emerged
from these collaborations.

These partnerships have recently expanded to the launch of new initiatives including:
Ferran Adrià by Armand Basi, a line of kitchen and home textiles for the Spanish fashion
label; Texturas, a new line of emulsifiers, gelling agents and products created by Ferran and
Albert Adrià to encapsulate food in spheres, produced by Solé Graells; and Faces Ferran
Adrià, a project in which the chef and a group of leading designers, such as Luki Huber,
Claramunt and De Mas, Azúa and Moliné, and Estudi Arola, have been working together
on since spring 2006 to create new objects for the kitchen and the table. Faces had the
backing of an industrial partner, Cunill Orfebres, specialised in manufacturing stainless
steel products.

Own businesses. Over the years, elBulli opened businesses of their own, mostly in catering
(elBullicatering) and publishing (elBullibooks).

elBullicatering was founded in 1995 to give a wider public access to the restaurant’s dishes
at specific events. elBulli was one of the first restaurants to expand their trade in this way.
The concept was transferred from Barcelona to Madrid, where an elBulli catering outlet
was set up in the Madrid casino in collaboration with NH Hotels.

10
Adrià et al., 2002, p. 431.

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Another source of revenue was the courses organised in Cala Montjoi between 1993 and
1999, which were a way of disseminating the restaurant’s singular philosophy and earning
some income whilst the restaurant was closed. Teaching others about elBulli’s cuisine
forced the team to think about its characteristic traits and development, resulting in the birth
of elBullibooks.

The first book published by elBulli was El Bulli. El sabor del Mediterráneo, published in
1993. Unlike other books of that period, this was not a recipe book. It focused on the
philosophy and the methods of its new style of cuisine. “So that book embodied our desire
to codify our cuisine from a theoretical viewpoint, an approach upheld in the following
books”. Albert Adrià subsequently published another book addressing the concepts and
techniques in the world of deserts: Los postres de El Bulli.

The books were the outcome of reflection. Adrià’s interest in reflection dated back to the
time when all innovation, production and service took place in the restaurant. For example,
Carles Abellàn, the chef of Comerç 24 in Barcelona and a former member of the core
elBulli team in that period, explains that Adrià “made me question everything, rethink
everything… There was one requirement: the interest to comprehend the “why” of
everything. It was about a very tight collaboration and evolution, which the entire team
lived profoundly. It was like an open colloquium… We used to spend 24 hours a day
together”.11 As Albert Adrià also explained, “Back at the workshop, we start off with
different tests. At four o’clock, [we] get together and assess what we’ve done, bringing
together all the ideas and sensations that have come up throughout the day”.12

The books were a way of disseminating the chef’s influence whilst protecting his creations
in an industry with no other copyright protection mechanism. “The only way we have to
combat plagiarism is by publishing our books. In these, we set out our recipes, how each
dish is made, etc. Basically, it is like patenting our recipes”, said the chef.13

The first part of the elBulli general catalogue was published in 2002. The trilogy was
launched in luxury volumes covering the periods between 1983 and 2002: elBulli1998-
2002, elBulli1994-1997 and elBulli1983-1993. The cataloguing carried on, giving rise to
the publication of additional volumes: elBulli2003, elBulli2004 and elBulli2005.

elBullibooks was founded in the 2000s during the team’s search for an editor for the books
they had been developing as their cuisine evolved. When they failed to find a publisher for
the large, premium-quality volumes they wanted to produce, they decided to take the
plunge and create their own publishing house. Once again, driven by necessity, over the
years elBullibook acquired a personality of its own and began to become profitable.

11
Abellán, in Moret, X. (2005). Carles Abellán, un cocinero en moto. A Prologue. In Abellán, C. ‘Carles
Abellán: Las tapas de Comerç 24’, Barcelona, Spain: Cartoné, pp. 33-34.
12
Albert Adrià, in Vicente, A. (2003). Albert Adrià. Director of the ElBulli workshop. Diario Vasco. February
11th.
13
Adrià, in Molina, V. (2005). La suma de dos talentos. Revista Fuera de Serie (Expansión), September, #77,
pp. 38-39.

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***

RELATIONSHIP WITH SOCIETY
As Adrià’s fame continued to grow (he had become a very famous figure in Spain and also
one of the Spanish brands best-known internationally14), he became increasingly concerned
about the role of science and gastronomy in the promotion of healthy eating habits amongst
present-day and future generations. As a result, and despite his extremely crowded agenda,
he enthusiastically embraced the proposal made to him by Adolf Todó. The savings bank
Caixa Manresa’s Director had asked the chef to support and advise ALICIA (an acronym
for alimentación and ciencia, meaning nutrition and science in Spanish), the foundation
recently created under the auspices of Caixa Manresa and the Generalitat of Catalonia. The
aim of the Foundation, whose new headquarters were to be located in the soon to be
refurbished Sant Benet de Bages monastery, was to advance research into nutrition
processes, health and gastronomy and to contribute to these social and cultural goals by
implementing programmes to improve nutrition and conducting research in order to
understand the history of nutrition and gastronomy better.

Willing to bring his cuisine closer to a great number of people, in October 2004 Ferran
Adrià published a DVD collection entitled La cocina fácil de Ferran Adrià (Ferran Adrià’s
easy cuisine) offering a straightforward, affordable introduction to some of the chef’s
concepts and techniques that could easily be used in viewers’ homes to prepare everyday
meals. Adrià became increasingly involved in research and training with the creation of the
Ferran Adrià School of Gastronomic Culture and Food Science at the Camilo José Cela
University in Madrid. Among the subjects covered by this school were: food safety,
nutrition, food composition, educating the palate and culinary creativity.

Another initiative making the elBulli cuisine accessible to more people was the opening of
Albert Adrià’s Inopia Classic Bar at the junction of Rocafort and Tamarit streets in one of
Barcelona’s modest neighbourhoods. This establishment was a return to the origins of tapas
bars, a truly Spanish concept. According to elBulli sources its aim extended beyond
financial and business interests. It sought to offer not only food but also food for thought on
the eternal dispute between creativity and tradition.

***
REACHING FOR THE STARS
Ferran Adrià is fully aware of the importance of opinion leaders and the media in
broadcasting his fame and influence:
It is well known that in life, you are what other people say you are. Having said
this, there have been two important moments in my career: the first was when the

14
Exclusive ranking “Who are the most profitable “walking brands”, Actualidad Económica #2.414, 23
September 2004.

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Gault Millau guide came to Spain and set us on a par with the French, and the
second, when the mythical Joël Robuchon said that I was the world’s best chef.

In recent years, Ferran Adrià and his team have received countless awards and
acknowledgements (see Appendix 3). The earliest symptom of the media’s growing interest
in the public and private figure of Adrià occurred in 1999 with the cover of El País
Semanal, the Sunday supplement of one of Spain’s leading national newspapers (see
Appendix 4 for selected covers):
The fact that in June 1999 El País Semanal made us its cover story, under the title
"Ferran Adrià, el mejor cocinero del mundo – the world’s best chef", meant that for
the first time, our restaurant monopolised newsstands all over Spain. To put it
another way, this was the first time that were able to "explain" ourselves to the
public, in an article in which other chefs also gave their opinion. This not only gave
us great satisfaction, it also undeniably marked a great leap forward in our
reputation among other professionals and amateur gastronomes.

The cover of The New York Times magazine in 2003, with its emblematic headline, “The
Nueva Nouvelle Cuisine”, and his appearance in 2004 on the cover of Time magazine as
one of the one hundred most influential people of the year, catapulted the chef’s fame into
an entirely different dimension. Adrià also appeared on the cover of the Le Monde weekend
supplement. And although the French daily broached the matter with a question – “Ferran
Adrià, l’alchimiste, est-il le plus grand cuisinier du monde?” (Is Ferran Adrià, the
alchemist, the world’s greatest chef?), it undeniably suggested recognition of the chef’s
creations.

Adrià’s cuisine had also been acclaimed by his profession both in Spain and around the
globe. Juan Mari Arzak, the father of the new Basque cuisine and also the chef of a
Michelin three-star restaurant, commented that “Ferran is the most avant-garde person in
the history of cuisine. ... He is the most imaginative and creative chef I know... Every year I
spend a few days in his lab because his ideas open doors to me that I couldn’t even imagine
existed. He helps me evolve”. As Carme Ruscalleda, the first female Spanish chef to
receive a third Michelin star, in 2005, declared, “As far as I’m concerned, he is the greatest
genius, not only here but in the entire world. … You’re constantly discovering things in
Adrià’s cuisine,… it gives you an intellectual shock”.15 Joan Roca, the chef of a Michelin
two-star restaurant in Spain feels that, “Ferran has influenced our entire generation”.
Despite the occasional sceptical opinion, the profession as a whole acknowledged the
creativity and contribution made by Ferran Adrià.

The chef is also known outside the haute cuisine circles. His work has been included in art
expositions and has received recognition by artists and designers alike. In 2005, Ferran
Adrià took part in an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In the autumn of 2006 he
was awarded the Lucky Strike Designer Award, a prestigious recognition granted by the
Raymond Loewy Foundation, the first to be given to a Spaniard, which set the chef on a par
with names of the stature of Karl Lagerfeld, Donna Karan and Philippe Starck. He is also
the first chef ever invited to display his creations at Documenta in 2007, one of the most
15
Ruscalleda, in Jolonch, C. (2005). Carme Ruscalleda. Interview. Magazine, La Vanguardia, December 11,
pp. 26-36.

11
innovative contemporary art events, held in Kassel (Germany) every five years.
***

12
Appendix 1
Synthesis of elBulli cuisine16

In the mid-1990s a new style of cuisine began to be forged. Today, this style has been
wholly consolidated and may be defined in the following terms:

1. Cooking is a language through which all the following properties 14. The classical structure of dishes is being broken down: a veritable
may be expressed: harmony, creativity, happiness, beauty, poetry, revolution is underway in first courses and desserts, closely bound up with the
complexity, magic, humour, provocation and culture. concept of symbiosis between the sweet and savoury world; in main dishes
the "product-garnish-sauce" hierarchy is being broken down.
2. The use of top quality products and technical knowledge to
prepare them properly are taken for granted. 15. A new way of serving food is being promoted. The dishes are finished in
the dining room by the serving staff. In other cases the diners themselves
3. All products have the same gastronomic value, regardless of their participate in this process.
price.
16. Regional cuisine as a style is an expression of its own geographical and
4. Preference is given to vegetables and seafood, with a key role also cultural context as well as its culinary traditions. Its bond with nature
being played by dairy products, nuts and other products that make up complements and enriches this relationship with its environment.
a light form of cooking. In recent years red meat and large cuts of
poultry have been very sparingly used. 17. Products and preparations from other countries are subjected to one's
particular style of cooking.
5. Although the characteristics of the products may be modified
(temperature, texture, shape, etc.), the aim is always to preserve the 18. There are two main paths towards attaining harmony of products and
purity of their original flavour, except for processes that call for long flavours: through memory (connection with regional cooking traditions,
cooking or seek the nuances of particular reactions such as the adaptation, deconstruction, former modern recipes), or through new
Maillard reaction. combinations.

6. Cooking techniques, both classic and modern, are a heritage that 19. A culinary language is being created which is becoming more and more
the cook has to know how to exploit to the maximum. ordered, that on some occasions establishes a relationship with the world and
language of art.
7. As has occurred in most fields of human evolution down the ages,
new technologies are a resource for the progress of cooking. 20. Recipes are designed to ensure that harmony is to be found in small
servings.
8. The family of stocks is being extended. Together with the classic
ones, lighter stocks performing an identical function are now being 21. Decontextualisation, irony, spectacle, performance are completely
used (waters, broths, consommés, clarified vegetable juses, nut milk, legitimate, as long as they are not superficial but respond to, or are closely
etc.). bound up with, a process of gastronomic reflection.

9. The information given off by a dish is enjoyed through the senses; 22. The menu de dégustation is the finest expression of avant-garde
it is also enjoyed and interpreted by reflection. cooking. The structure is alive and subject to changes. Concepts such as
snacks, tapas, pre-desserts, morphs, etc., are coming into their own.
10. Taste is not the only sense that can be stimulated: touch can also
be played with (contrasts of temperatures and textures), as well as 23. Knowledge and/or collaboration with experts from different fields
smell, sight (colours, shapes, trompe d’oeil, etc.), whereby the five (gastronomic culture, history, industrial design, etc.,) is essential for progress
senses become one of the main points of reference in the creative in cooking. In particular collaboration with the food industry and the scientific
cooking process. world has brought about fundamental advances. Sharing this knowledge
among cooking professionals has contributed to this evolution.
11. The technique-concept search is the apex of the creative
pyramid.

12. Creation involves teamwork. In addition, research has become
consolidated as a new feature of the culinary creative process.

13. The barriers between the sweet and savoury world are being
broken down. Importance is being given to a new cold cuisine,
particularly in the creation of the frozen savoury world.

16
Source: www.elbulli.com.

13
Appendix 2
The elBulli menu: 2006 season17

elderberry cherries18
green olive sphere - 1
soursop crisp
“animals”
salmon skin
parma passion
seaweed waffles
ginger and orange frozen cookies
mandarin essence
parmesan and basil won-ton
coriander/peppermint/caipirinha avocado pear tempura
mozzarella brioche with rose air
logan/sake/almond
“raff” tomato with powdered almond, elderberry and almond jelly
asparagus in brine
split peas and ham & fresh mint, creamy ravioli and eucalyptus air
mussel spheres with double cream, bacon & potato soup
salmon belly and pickles
pumpkin seed and peanut risotto, saffron jelly and curry air
the sea
Marrakech-style spider crab
Serrano ham slivers & potato purée
crispy chicken feet
2-tempo peach
black brioche
peach liquid
hummingbird
morphing meringues

Appendix 3
17
Source: elBulli staff
18
Translation of the menu

14
Prizes, acknowledgements and restaurant guide ratings to
Ferran Adrià, Juli Soler, Albert Adrià and elBulli19

Prizes
1990 National Prize for the best Chef de Salle to Juli Soler.
Awarded by: National Academy of Gastronomy.

1992 National Gastronomy Prize for the best Chef de Cuisine to Ferran Adrià
Awarded by: National Academy of Gastronomy

1994 Grand Prix de L'Art de la Cuisine
Awarded by: International Academy of Gastronomy

1996 Clé d'Or de la Gastronomie
Awarded by: Gault-Millau

Restaurant of the Year
Awarded by: Club de Gourmets

1997 Catalonia Tourism Medal
Awarded by: Generalitat de Catalunya

1998 Best Maître Award to Juli Soler
Awarded by: Gourmetour

Metopolis Prize for Innovation
Awarded by: Metopolis

1999 Giorgio Fini Award
Awarded by: Città di Modena

Chef of the Year
Awarded by: Gourmetour

2001 Ceretto
Awarded by: Ceretto Fundation

Humanitat Ciutat de L'Hospitalet Award
Awarded by: L'Hospitalet de Llobregat City Council

19
Source: www.elbulli.com.

15
FAD
Awarded by: FAD

Bronze Angel for Communication in Catalonia
Awarded by: Escola Superior de Relacions Públiques, Girona

Gold Heart
Awarded by: Spanish Heart Foundation

2002 Cross of Sant Jordi
Awarded by: Generalitat de Catalunya

Tourism Gold Medal
Awarded by: Gobierno Español

Tourism Gold Medal
Awarded by: Generalitat de Catalunya

The World's Best Restaurant
Awarded by: The Restaurant Magazine

2003 Silver Spoon
Awarded by: Food Arts

Protagonistas Award for Gastronomy
Awarded by: Programme of Luis del Olmo, Onda Cero Radio

Catalan of the Year 2003
Awarded by: El Periódico de Catalunya Newspaper

City of Barcelona Award
Awarded by: Barcelona City Council

2004 Spain Brand Ambassador (Culture)
Awarded by: Leading Brands of Spain Forum (Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism
and the Spanish Foreign Trade Institute)

Honorary Son of the City of L'Hospitalet
Awarded by: L'Hospitalet de Llobregat City Council

2005 Preisträger Ferran Adrià Sektion Grobe Kochkunst
Awarded by: Witzigmann Preis

16
2006 Award to Ferran Adrià in recognition of his contribution to the spreading of
Spanish gastronomy in the world over the last 20 years
Awarded by: Spain Gourmetour

World's Best Restaurant
Awarded by: The Restaurant Magazine

3rd Diálogo Award for Hispano-French Friendship
Awarded by: Asociación Diálogo

Lucky Strike Designer Award
Awarded by: Raymond Loewy Foundation

Madrid Creativity
Awarded by: Comunidad de Madrid

Acknowledgements
1999 Cover of El Pais Semanal Magazine

2003 Chairman of the Bocuse d'Or

Cover of the The New York Times Magazine, August 10th.

Cover of El Mundo Magazine

2004 Cover of the Sunday edition of Le Monde, constituting the highest accolade given by the
world's leading gastronomic nation.

Cover of Time Magazine, naming F. Adrià one of the top 100 influential people in the
world.

The book, elBulli1983-2002, originally in Spanish, is translated into Italian, German,
Japanese, English, French and Catalan.

The Spanish Royal Household appoints Ferran Adrià together with Juan Mari Arzak to
prepare the gala dinner served to the world's royal families on the eve of the wedding of
Prince Felipe to Doña Letizia.

Ferran Adrià chairs the Advisory Committee of Alícia (Alimentación y Ciencia [Food and
Science]), a Caixa de Manresa project at the Monastery of Sant Benet. This is a unique
project working towards future improvement in food.

The Leading Brands of Spain Forum names him a Spanish Brand ambassador for
Culture, together with Juan Antonio Samaranch, Amancio Ortega, José Carreras, El
País, Severiano Ballesteros and Valentí Fuster.

Envoyé Especial, France's highest-rated television show, devotes a 30-minute

17
programme to him in France, thus constituting his definite acceptance in that country.

2005 The Ferran Adrià Chair in Gastronomic Culture and Food Sciences is set up at the
Camilo José Cela University in Madrid.

2006 At the Madrid Fusión Conference, 60 journalists from all over the world publish a list of
the Ten Most Influential Chefs of the Last Ten Years, choosing Ferran Adrià as number
one.

2007 Ferran Adrià is invited to take part in Documenta, the most important exhibition of
contemporary art taking place every five years in Kassel (Germany), becoming the first
haute cuisine chef to show his work at an event of the kind.

Restaurant Guide Ratings

9.75 in the "Lo Mejor de la Gastronomía" Guide by Rafael García Santos.

Three Stars in the Michelin Guide.

5 garages in the Campsa Guide.

9.75 in the Gourmetour Guide.

18
Appendix 4
Selected covers with Ferran Adrià

19
20
21
22
23
24