Ferran Adrià (Hospitalet de Llobregat, 1962) needs no introduction. Considered the world’s best chef, he decided to move away from the everyday business of running the kitchen at elBulli to focus on the elBullifoundation and continue investigating the limits of creativity. Although he no longer spends his days in the kitchen, he remains in constant contact with gastronomy, his true passion.
How would you sum up your professional career in one word?
I’m going to sum it up in three: passion, work, and freedom.
How does someone end up being the world’s best chef?
It’s not a label you go looking for. You do your work the best you can, and there’s an endless number of factors at play in the outcome: determination; capacity for work; talent, definitely; luck, too…
What fundamental skills do you think a good chef has to have? What attitudes?
There are lots of attitudes and skills a chef has to have, really… In terms of attitudes, I’d say capacity for work is essential, analytical ability, discipline, critical thinking, patience, among many others. As for skills, ambition, self-confidence, sense of responsibility, boldness…
Where does the creativity of your dishes come from?
In a specific way, they can be the result of any stimulus, whether culinary or not. More generally, they come from constantly paying attention to what’s around us.
You made a very good pair with Juli Soler at elBulli. What did each of you bring to the table?
elBulli is unimaginable without Juli. From a practical point of view, he took care of everything that wasn’t cooking, which is a lot in a restaurant. He brought a new way of dealing with the public and managing a restaurant dining room. For me, having him there represented a calmness, as well as support for my way of understanding cooking, which was an understanding we both shared, actually.
What was the secret to elBulli’s success?
I think, as I’ve said, that it’s a cumulation of circumstances. If you look back over the trajectory of elBulli, you realize that the right decisions were made at each point in time, which is easy to analyze and say after the fact, but at the time they were made, it was hard to know whether we were getting it right.
Out of everything you achieved at elBulli, what has given you the most satisfaction?
Having been able to give the language of cooking a very important boost. Also, the world we’ve created after 25 years, with thousands of “Bullinianos” [the people of elBulli and its projects], who see themselves as the heirs of our experiences at Cala Montjoi, from both the culinary and human points of view.
How have you managed personal and business success?
My leitmotif has always been to keep working, to keep learning as the different situations presented themselves, resolving them by drawing on the people I had around me. Juli Soler represented a fundamental support in this sense.
How would you define the perfect pairing between a wine and a dish?
The perfect pairing doesn’t exist; there are so many parameters at play that we can’t boil it down to an aromatic, tactile, or molecular combination. And isn’t it also true that factors like the setting, the occasion, and the company play a part in achieving the best match between a wine and what you’re eating?
Your brother Albert is doing his part to uphold the reputation of the Adrià name. What are his strengths?
Albert has it all: He’s creative, he has an equal command – and at an extremely high level – of both sweet and savory, he knows the business world, he knows how to lead teams. He seems like the complete chef.
It’s interesting that two brothers have achieved such a high level of gastronomy knowledge. Is a chef born or made? Have your parents had anything to do with it?
They haven’t had anything to do with it in a direct way since neither of them worked in the restaurant industry or in cooking. In that sense, as I’ve said, we got into cooking by chance. I think that chefs are made, which doesn’t mean they can’t have specific skills or talent that make it easier.
How does Ferran Adrià live away from the kitchen?
I’m physically away from the kitchen, but always in direct contact with gastronomy, through our research at elBullifoundation and the collaboration and proximity with different gastronomic projects.
Why are there so many chefs who decide to take a step back when they’ve reached the pinnacle?
Our profession is really tough, and it’s very likely that some of these chefs see that once they’ve reached a certain point, they don’t want to be part of such a competitive scene, so they decide to approach the profession with other aims.
Tell us about how the elBullifoundation project is going…
We’ve always believed that the elBullifoundation is a continuation of the elBulli restaurant, which we closed in July 2011. Since then, and right up to now, we’ve been investigating the limits of creativity, promoting a project where knowledge and innovation are the key pillars.
How has gastronomy evolved over the last 10 years? Where is it going? Is there emerging talent?
Many of the lines that were already being mapped out in the previous decade have been consolidated over the last 10 years, and at the same time new ground has been broken, both in terms of culinary language as well as the models and formats in the gourmet restaurant industry. I think this last point indicates where gastronomy can go; in other words, toward flawlessly executed cuisine, in a more or less avant-garde vein depending on the chef’s intention, and served in establishments where it’s not so much about luxury as about the comfort of the diners.
What would you recommend to young chefs who are starting out?
More than anything else, for them to study, learn, never stop educating themselves. You never know enough, and talent is nothing without an understanding of the profession, of the history of cooking, of everything you can learn.
Would you open a restaurant again?
No, I wouldn’t open another one. I think I already had everything you could want and dream of with elBulli.
A little taste
Best time for having a glass of wine
Definitely in a gourmet restaurant, most of all because of the whole ritual that goes along with it.
A song to enjoy wine to
“Mediterráneo” by Joan Manuel Serrat.
Somewhere you’d get lost
A market in Tokyo.
What do you do in your free time?
Go for walks, to soccer games, to the movies, the usual.
A flaw and a virtue
Punctuality can be either a flaw or a virtue, it depends…
What did you want to be when you were little? And now that you’re grown up?
When I was little, I wanted to be a professional soccer player. When they told me I wasn’t at the level required, I started working in a kitchen by chance. As a grown-up, I’d like to continue enjoying what I do, always related to gastronomy.