No one can get into elBulli, Ferran Adria's restaurant on the northeast coast of Spain. But plenty of people certainly try: every year, the restaurant receives over two million requests for only 8,000 seats during the six months it is open. For the other six months, Adria, who is proud to be called the "Salvador Dali of the Kitchen," travels, dreams, and creates at his "food laboratory" in Barcelona, called elBulli Taller, where his team includes a chemist and an industrial designer who also design plates and serving utensils to go with the food.
No wonder, as Corby Kummer wrote in The Atlantic, "making the twisty two-hour drive from Barcelona for a dinner that ends well into the wee hours has become a notch on every foodie's belt--perhaps the notch, given the international derby to get reservations."
For mortals who won't be making the trip soon--or who didn't hit the lottery last year in the German contemporary-art exhibition Documenta, which flew two people at random per day to el Bulli to experience "the exhibition" that is dinner at elBulli--Adria has given the world A Day at elBulli: An Insight into the Ideas, Methods and Creativity of Ferran Adria.
This is the first book to take a behind-the-scenes look at the restaurant whose sources and methods every ambitious chef wants to know. It shows a full working day from dawn until the last late-night guests leave, using photographs, menus, recipes and diagrams that reveal the restaurant's preparations, food philosophy, and surroundings.
What have the rest of us been missing? What will chefs take from this book that they haven't taken from Adria's high-profile American disciples, and have those chefs seen Adria through a glass darkly?
Can home cooks without access to Adria's phantasmagoric funhouse of high-tech equipment and unpronounceable food-industry additives also be influenced by his artistry? Can food in fact be art, and should it be?
Ferran Adria began his culinary career washing dishes at a French restaurant. In 1984, at the age of 22, Adria joined the kitchen staff of elBulli, a traditional French restaurant.
Eighteen months later, he became head chef. He soon began learning techniques from culinary masters and performing culinary experiments based on the use of fresh materials. In line with Adria 's experimental philosophy, he closes elBulli for six months every year to travel in search of new inspiration and perfect new recipes.
In response to the question--can food be art? Adria has said, "That's for other people to decide. Cooking is cooking. And if it exists alongside art, that's wonderful."
Bill Buford is an American author and journalist. Buford is the author of the books Among the Thugs and Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.
Paul Holdengräber is the Director of LIVE from the NYPL.
Corby Kummer is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he has established himself as one of the country's most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers.
Harold McGee writes about the science of food and cooking. Twenty years after its first publication, the revised On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen was named best food reference of 2004 by the IACP and the James Beard Foundation.
In 2005, Bon Appetit named McGee food writer of the year. In 2008, Time Magazine named him to its annual list of the world's most influential people. McGee has written for many publications, including The World Book Encyclopedia, Nature, Food & Wine, and Fine Cooking and has appeared on public television's "Diary of a Foodie" and on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," "Fresh Air," and "Science Friday." He writes a monthly column, "The Curious Cook," for The New York Times.
Chef Ferran Adria, head chef of elBulli, and Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking, describe how liquid nitrogen is used in restaurant kitchens to make innovative dishes like alcohol sorbets and frozen pistachio puree truffles.