This evening, Saturday, July 30, 2011, comes the final service, the final dishes served, in what is the current and known identity of El Bulli in Roses, Spain. Ranked the number one restaurant in the world for five years, El Bulli changed the dining landscape of the world, whether you know of the restaurant and or not.
Ferran Adria, the driving force and Chef behind the restaurant, came to the restaurant in 1984, taking charge of the kitchen in 1987. He did not however gain popularity until the late 1990's and early 2000. Known for foams and transformations of food, Ferran is noted on starting the now popular food movement coined "Molecular Gastronomy," a term that Ferran objects to.
Without a doubt in my mind, Ferran is the single most important Chef in the history of cooking. Sure Escoffier, Keller, others are very important. But who else in the industry has made such dramatic changes to the landscape? Who else has questioned the limits of food, and pushed things year in and year out, to higher limits. Who else has made as huge of an impact on the industry?
During Junior year of High School, is when the passion and throbbing heartache of day in and day out thoughts of cooking and restaurants began. I was taking culinary classes at the local technical center, working dinner services at The Can Can Brasserie in downtown Richmond, and when the day was over at nearly 11 or 12 at night I would jump on the internet and research various foods, techniques, chefs, or anything that my education or time in the restaurant had me note to research later and learn about. During this time period is when I first learned about El Buli, from San Pellgrinio's Best Restaurant's list. When I first began reading about the restaurant, and seeing pictures of the food, I was in a euphoric state. Here I was in Richmond, Virginia, seeing what I thought was THE food industry, classic French cuisine, classic techniques, and I see pictures of a Spanish chef flipping everything on it's head.
Foams as sauces? Hot gelees? Caviar pearls of apple? A green pea ravioli, encased in itself? How is this food possible? And how haven't I seen any of it? This Chef, was taking any rules and throwing them away, asking why is this always used in this way? How can we best show this ingredient. I was truly inspired. Beyond inspired, ecstatic, I couldn't sleep.
Amongst my never-ending searches and views of any information I could find, I stumbled upon Anthony Bourdain's 2001 film "Decoding Ferran Adria." A film that forever changed me.
Certainly watched over 50 times, perhaps 100 times, the one hour, now outdated, special by Anthony Bourdain, was one of the most important pieces of my beginnings. It showed me that beyond the limits of Richmond chefs were using their creativity, questioning everything they had once learned, working in a collaboration instead of the classic hierarchy system.
The film and everything and anything I could find on the restaurant, fueled my desire to see more, learn more, and question what the possibilities of food could be.
Having never made it to the restaurant, it will forever haunt me that I never got to experience the most important restaurant in history. Ferran plans to re-open in 2014 with the space being a some what altered state, currently called the El Bulli Foundacion, it is said it will be a creativity center.
This coming Monday, August 1st, Anthony Bourdain is releasing a second episode centered around El Bulli, this time a "Last Meal." You should watch it, without a doubt it will be a historic and monumental video. And one that will be close to my heart.
Thanks Ferran and all those who have worked at El Bulli, you forever changed the landscape of dining, and inspired many without even knowing.