Believe you me, I wish I could be so lucky as to give away a table for two at El Bulli.
But now that the illustrious and pioneering restaurant has closed, I can at least give you a better understanding of the culinary genius, Ferran Adria, revered by chefs all around the world, who created what was arguably the best restaurant in the world.
“Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man who Reinvented Food’ (Gotham Books) tells of Adria’s humble beginnings as a college drop-out who took a job as a dishwasher only to make enough money to party. Then, he was drafted into the military, where he landed the demanding post as a cook for an admiral. During a summer leave, a friend urged him to take a job in the kitchen of a Michelin two-star restaurant in the middle of nowhere in Spain. Adria so impressed his bosses at El Bulli there that he was promised a full-time job after he finished his military service.
At age 25, he became El Bulli’s sole head chef. That same year, a chance encounter with some Spanish chefs would forever change his life and his way of thinking about cooking. Learn what set him on the path to creating foams, gels, spheres and other breathtaking, modern cooking techniques we now refer to as “molecular gastronomy.”
The book, by Saveur magazine co-founder Coleman Andrews, has just been released in paperback with a new afterward that details what Adria plans next.
Contest: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a copy of the book, “Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli.” Entries, limited to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST Dec. 31. Winner will be announced Jan. 2.
How to win?
Since there’s no chance at the moment of eating at El Bulli, tell me the next best restaurant you’d most want to dine at — and why.
Here’s my own answer:
“It would be a toss-up between Alinea or Next. Both are in Chicago and both are the brainchild of the same chef, Grant Achatz, whose philosophy about cooking also was dramatically altered when he staged at El Bulli. Both offer unique experiences — Alinea with its modern cuisine that necessitates its own way of eating; and Next, which reinvents itself every quarter with a new culinary theme, time and feel. Achatz, whom I’ve interviewed a couple of times over the years, is also one of the most articulate chefs in the industry. It would be an honor to experience how he expresses himself on the plate.”
Winner of the Previous Contest: In last week’s Food Gal contest, I asked you to tell me your favorite memory that involves cookies. The winner will receive four boxes of Alice’s Stick Cookies (one of each flavor).
Cheri O’Neil, who wrote, “Growing up, my kids were lucky enough to have a grandmother who baked cookies. Her ethnic roots were steeped in Norwegian, so she’d make rosettes, sandbakkels, sirupsnitterm, fatigmann and krumkaker. My favorites were the sugar-sprinkled spritz, in the shapes of Christmas wreaths and trees. No cookie was too butter-infused, rich and delicious for my mother. She spent her days baking, and not just those leading up to Christmas. But my kids were of a different generation. When they were old enough to go to their friends’ homes, they ate Oreos, boxed ginger snaps and Thin Mints. They’d never ask me for Fig Newtons, but they definitely wanted ‘normal’ cookies. Forget the ethnic.
Now that my children are young adults, the packaged cookies have grown stale. Their Norwegian grandma is gone, her backed goods a distant memory. But when my children have children of their own, I’m going to surprise them. I have all those old recipes, and I haven’t forgotten those flavors of old.”