Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food

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A major retrospective exhibition on a global icon of gastronomy, Ferran Adrià, and the restaurant he built to become the world’s best, elBulli. In partnership with Estrella Damm, elBulli: Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food was the world’s first exhibition dedicated to a chef and his restaurant. The retrospective showcased the art of cuisine and cuisine as art by taking a behind-the-scenes look at the legendary laboratory and kitchen of the internationally renowned restaurant, which delighted diners in Cala Montjoi, a small picturesque bay on the Catalan coast near Roses, for over 50 years.

Charting the evolution of elBulli, the exhibition featured an in-depth, multimedia display of each of the essential ingredients that make up the culinary creative mastermind of Ferran Adrià and his team: research (handwritten notes and hand-drawn sketches); preparation (plasticine models, which were made for all the dishes served as a means for quality control of colour, portion size and position on the plate, and the specially-designed utensils used); presentation (original tasting menus, cutlery laid on the tables and salivating shots of the creations taken from the catalogue to be published by Phaidon next year), and plaudits (original restaurant reviews and other press clippings). Combined with archive footage of the chefs and clientele, the exhibition’s ephemera are testament to Adrià’s abundant talent, genius and ambition.

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Adrià said of the Somerset House show: “Even though the restaurant of elBulli is now closed, the spirit of elBulli is still very much alive and this exhibition is one of the ways of keeping it so.  For some, I hope it will revive good memories, and for others it will give a flavour of a fine dining experience like no other.  Overall, it is an ode to the creativity, imagination, innovation, talent and teamwork of everyone at elBulli, but especially the world-famous chefs who trained with us and took these values into their own restaurants around the world.

“I am delighted to be presenting it in London at the prestigious Somerset House, another creative hub which, like elBulli, always invites you to try something new and perhaps a little unpredictable.”

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23 points of which characterised elBulli cuisine:

  1. Cooking is a language through which all of the following may be expressed: harmony, creativity, joy, beauty, poetry, complexity, magic, humour, provocation and culture.
  2. The use of top quality products and technical knowledge to prepare them properly is taken for granted.
  3. All products have the same gastronomic value, regardless of their price.
  4. Preference is given to vegetables, seafood and fish. Dairy products, nuts and other products also played key roles, together constituting a very light form of cooking. In recent years, red meat and large cuts of poultry have been used sparingly.
  5. Although the characteristics of the products may be modified (temperature, texture, shape, etc.), the aim is always to preserve the purity of their original taste. Exceptions can be made for processes that call for long cooking or seek the nuances of particular reactions such as the Maillard reaction.
  6. Cooking techniques, both classic and modern, are a heritage which the chef must understand how to exploit fully.
  7. As with most, new technologies are a support in the development of cooking.
  8. The family of bases in dishes is being extended. Together with the classic ones, lighter bases performing an identical function are now being used (water, broths, consommés, clarified vegtable juices, nut milks, etc.).
  9. A dish is enjoyed through the senses; it is also experienced and rationalised by reflection.
  10. Taste is not the only sense that can be stimulated; touch can also be played with (contrasts in temperatures and textures), as can smell and sight (colours, shapes, trompe l’oeil, etc.). The senses thus become one of the main points of reference in the creative process.
  11. The technical and conceptual research 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 world and the savoury world are being broken down. Importance is placed on a new cold cuisine, particularly in the creation of the frozen savoury world.
  14. The classic structure of dishes is being broken down. Appetisers and desserts are undergoing a veritable revolution, which is  closely aligned with the concept of symbiosis between the sweet world and the savoury world. In main courses, the product-garnish-sauce hierarchy is shifting.
  15. A new way of serving food is being promote. The dishes are finished in the dining room by the serving staff. On other occasions, the diners themselves participate in this process.
  16. Local origins as a style constitutes connection to the geographical and cultural context, and to culinary traditions.
  17. Products and elaborations from other countries are subjected to this particular style of cooking.
  18. There are two main paths towards attaining harmony of products and tastes: through memory (connection to local origins, adaptation, deconstruction, earlier modern recipe) and through new combinations.
  19. An ever more codified culinary language is being created, which, on some occasions, establishes dialogues with the world and language of art.
  20. Recipes are designed to ensure that harmony is to be found in small servings.
  21. De-contextualisation, irony, spectacle and performance are completely legitimate as long as they are not superficial. Rather, they should respond to a gastronomic reflection.
  22. The tasting menu us the finest expression of avant-garde cooking. The structure is alive and subject to change. Concepts such as snacks, tapas, pre-desserts, morphs, etc. are favoured.
  23. Knowledge and/or collaboration with experts from different fields (gastronomic culture, history, industrial design, etc.) is essential for progress in cooking. In particular, collaboration with the food industry and the scientific world has brought about fundamental advances in cooking. Sharing this knowledge among the sector’s professionals has contributed to this evolution.

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