Every year I lived in London I entered the ballot to eat at El Bulli. The Spanish restaurant headed by Ferran Adria only opened for six months in the year and was so in demand that tables were allocated by ballot. I tried every tactic from sending my application asking for a variety of specific dates and times for a booking to just requesting “anything you have”. I used multiple email addresses and talked friends into applying on my behalf as well but with no luck. I never did get a table at El Bulli. But there was some compensation when I received an invitation to hear Adria speak at The Essential Ingredient at an industry night attended by Melbourne’s top chefs.
For those who are not a top chef or a lucky blogger and so couldn’t make it along here are 10 takeaways from Adria’s talk. I took notes in shorthand but my shorthand is a little rusty so these quotes may not be exactly word perfect but hopefully give you a general impression of the topics Adria touched on.
1. On the style of El Bulli: “We wanted to make a leap and make a challenge, and that is how the whole new El Bulli style began with new techniques and style as well.”
2. Why he decided to stop serving bread and butter at El Bulli. “It was the first restaurant in the Western world to do away with the bread and butter. And I love bread and butter. But you can get good bread and butter from the guy underneath my apartment. It is illogical in a creative restaurant to serve bread and butter.”
3. On chefs not having enough time to think. “We were closed six months of the year for 25 years. We had a lot of time to think.”
4. On challenging concepts around food. “I’m trying to be provocative here. That is why people hate El Bulli so much and love it so much.”
5. Why he closed El Bulli: “I was at it for 30 years and I had had enough but more than that it was not me alone it was the entire team.”
6. On the “democratisation” of restaurants. “It used to be that restaurants were only for rich people.”
7. Why he has catalogued 1,846 dishes served at El Bulli. “To understand something you have to study it and to study it you have to order it.”
8. On the lack of knowledge about food. “It took me one year to understand the difference between fruit and vegetables. Something is wrong in a big way.”
9. On what he hopes to achieve with the El Bulli foundation. “We would have cooked much freer and not so manipulated because we have been manipulated by a lack of knowledge.”
10. On Australia’s cultural cringe. “My Aussie mates say ‘Oh we have had too many influences from too many places’. Yes you have, you are just like everywhere else.”
Gourmet Giveaway winners
Thanks to everyone who entered the Gourmet Chick eHarmony competition to win one of two $250 vouchers to Kitchenware Direct. The winners are Padaek and Benjamin Travia. Congratulations!