Ferran Adria

Last Tuesday, The International Culinary Center hosted the book party for Colman Andrew’s “Ferran”. Talk about intimidation!  Not only was one of the greatest chefs in the world visiting the school but other great chefs/food world stars would be coming to visit him. Jose Andres, Mario Batali, Tim and Nina Zagat, Drew Nieporent to name a few. The school was abuzz. Ferran Adria is truly a generous chef. He shares all his recipes and techniques freely. He also wants to inspire young chefs. Despite his packed schedule he came to the school two hours early. He signed books for our students in the library and then spent 45 minutes being interviewed by moi so we could share his thoughts with all students, past and future. The interview is posted on YouTube (scroll down to watch a couple of the clips and go to our YouTube channel to see more). What did he talk about?

Well, first of all, read the book. I found it a page turner. I was reading it while getting a spa pedicure. When it came time for the leg massage the Chinese woman doing an excellent job began scolding, “Put down the book! Massagee! Massagee!” I told her I couldn’t, I really couldn’t. Colman Andrews has written not a biography but an educated prospective of whom Fernando (Ferran is his Catalan name) Adria is in today’s world of uber cuisine. With just a glance at his childhood and present private life, Andrews reserves most of the book to delve into the evolution of the creative mind of Ferran. This is a book for any budding chef who thinks they can follow in his footsteps. Those footsteps are as large, talented, wild yet disciplined as Rudolf Nureyev or Michael Flatley. His evolution had as much to do with serendipity, locale and various characters as it does with Ferran’s innate intelligence and intensity.

Ferran and Colman Andrews

When I started my YouTube interview I reminded him that I met him in 2006 at Madrid Fusion. I said that back then I thought I knew who he was, but after reading this book I realized that indeed, I had no idea who he was. This book made me realize that the world has put labels on him that are neither true nor appropriate. He does not “do” molecular gastronomy. He is not a scientist and does not consider his work to be scientific experiments. What he is, is someone who thinks outside the box. When I gave him my rendition of what I thought the book revealed he smiled from ear to ear. He said,  “Yes! Yes!  After this book, people will really understand me!”

I couldn’t possibly capture the book in a few paragraphs but here are a few facts to whet your appetite to read the book or view the YouTube interview:

  • Ferran went to business school for three years.
  • He never wanted to be a chef.
  • Before meeting Jacques Maximin, a 2-star Michelin chef in Nice, France,  at the age of 24, Ferran never thought that chefs were “allowed to be creative.” Maximin said to him, “creativity is not copying.”
  • Ferran’s work from that time forward is to think of ingredients and tools that can be put together to make combinations that are creative, dishes that are surprising and challenging to the senses. Like an artist, they have foundation in serious thought. Some combinations are failures. Others are triumphs.
  • They originally closed El Bulli for five months over the winter because it could not make money in those months. Those five months proved vital to allowing Adria to be creative and work through the variations of dishes so he could bring them back to the restaurant for customer reaction.

Ferran in the amphitheater

In the amphitheater Ferran shared his plans for the future. As most of the world knows now, he is closing El Bulli in June 2011. He will reopen it in 2014 as a foundation. His interest is to bring together many elements to create a cuisine that further pleases, nourishes and stimulates us. Ferran is only 46 years old…can you imagine what he will be doing 20 years from now?

Mario Batali

Michael Laiskonis, Executive Pastry Chef, Le Bernardin

Ferran and Jose Andres at the reception

Colman sharing a laugh with Mario Batali and Jonathan Waxman

Tim Zagat

Drew Nieporent

Ferran, Jacques Torres

Michael Lomonaco, Andre Soltner, Alain Sailhac

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