Innovation...in the Kitchen?

06 March 2014

Sarah Toporoff

Journalists no longer need to work only in newspapers, so who’s to say that a chef must work in a restaurant? Catalonian master chef Ferran Adrià asked himself this question just before closing the doors to elBulli in July 2011. His Michelin three-star restaurant was getting millions of reservation requests per year, despite its capacity of only 50 clients. Adrià revealed his new project, elBulli Foundation, this week in Barcelona, an experience three years in the making.

Elbulli 3 Photos

Located two hours outside of Barcelona on Catalonia's Coast Brava, the foundation expands the premises of the original elBulli. The project is part museum, part creative space dedicated to culinary innovation. The museum features the exhibition ‘elBulli 1846’ celebrating the history of gastronomy. Its name represents the number of dishes invented by Adrià and his team during elBulli’s 24 years as a restaurant. ElBulli Foundation will also include ‘elBulli DNA’ a laboratory of culinary innovation. In this experiment, Adrià will bring 40 innovators – cooks, designers and architects – together to research and develop new culinary techniques.

[GEN is excited to welcome Ferran Adrià as a speaker at the GEN Summit 2014 (11-13 June). Get your GEN Summit ticket here and contact us to register for a private visit of Adrià's Bullipedia Lab in Barcelona on Saturday 14 June!]

Journalism no longer adheres to the traditional ‘inverted pyramid’ model; stories can now be told through tweets, GIFs or user comments. Similarly, Adrià is no stranger to innovation. This world renown chef challenges the status quo of haute cuisine by throwing out the outdated ‘product-garnish-sauce' hierarchy.

An olive oil chip

From humble beginnings as a hotel dishwasher and cook in the navy, Adrià has established himself (unarguably, it would seem) as the most inventive chef alive today. Food, for him, is so much more than a basic human need: it is a language and art form in its own right. Adrià says, ‘Decontextualisation, irony, spectacle, performance are completely legitimate, as long as they are not superficial but respond to, or are closely bound up with, a process of gastronomic reflection’ in elBulli’s 23-point philosophy.

What sort of decontextualisation you may ask? How about olive oil in the form of a chip, a martini sprayed directly onto the tongue, a raw quail’s egg served in a caramel shell or a mojito sandwich (pictured above)? Don’t be intimidated, however. Adrià believes that cuisine should also be accessible. Proving this is Bullipedia, another initiative of elBulli Foundation which seeks to assemble all ingredients, techniques and culinary history into an open source online reference.

Hungry for more? Here’s an excerpt of Ferran Adrià’s ‘1846’ culinary creations to delight the senses. (Courtesy of The New York Times)

Photo: Flickr - Spersper