El Bulli Last Walz, by Massimo Bottura

Luciana Bianchi - 09/08/2011

There are many wonderful moments I will never forget from my experience at El Bulli.

What I did not realise at the time however was just how deeply my professional life would be influenced by Ferran. At gastronomic conferences, in every corner of the world, I cannot help but meet face to face with someone who has worked in the kitchen of Ferran – like prison mates, soldiers in the same platoon, survivors of an airplane crash – we nod in recognition of the fact. There is something haunting and enduring that binds us instantly. I often have asked myself what that exactly is…

You would think it was the inside secrets, the techniques, the recipes…

Like spies, only we really know what goes on inside.

I shared a room with this guy from Rome who spent the whole summer peeling potatoes in the prep room at El Bulli. He was terribly envious that I had the opportunity to move to different stations. He kept asking me, no, begging me, to get the recipe for Ferran’s Parmigiano Reggiano Ice Cream. That was the only reason he was there. He couldn’t wait to sell it at his gelateria in Piazza Navona. He never got the recipe because he never stopped peeling potatoes. But even if he had, where would that recipe have taken him?

Ferran departs from an abstract reflection. He asks himself questions, imagines a scene as an artist, an architect, or as a musician would.

Then he answers that question with a plate, an edible response.

This process is what set Ferran apart from his predecessors. It is how he literally changed the culinary world getting rid of one preconceived notion at a time and finding original answers to timeless questions. He set up a model that could be adapted to many different cooking styles, cultural and culinary traditions and personalities.

The kitchen of Ferran Adrià is not about inside secrets. Ferran is the most generous chef in the world. At every congress and conference I’ve ever been, he has demonstrated with absolute clarity and precision exactly what he is doing – technique – concept – theme. He shares himself and his vision continually with those around him. At the last waltz, the spirit was all around us, not just on Ferran, but the entire place. A spirit of freedom that each one of us is interpreting every day in our life.

Yes, I think at first we were all drawn to the alchemy of Ferran’s kitchen: innovative techniques, unknown ingredients, on the frontiers of chemistry at the service of texture and temperature. Who could resist?

But the only magic trick Ferran ever taught us was how to use our minds -

The best trick of all.

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Luciana Bianchi is chef de cuisine and food writer, works as International Editor correspondent for the Brazilian gourmet magazine,Prazeres da Mesa, and contributes to several publications around the world.
on Twitter http://twitter.com/LucianaBianchi