Dining with Ferran Adrià

The great chef, visiting Identità Expo, explains how Italy needs a format for the restaurant of the future

20-06-2015
Ferran Adrià a few hours ago at Identità Expo, t

Ferran Adrià a few hours ago at Identità Expo, together with Pino Cuttaia and the kitchen team

«What is bread? What is bread? What is bread?». You’ve just sat next to Ferran Adrià and he stares at you with his lively eyes, insisting with a seemingly banal question. Yet you know you need a suitable answer.

The attempt: «Food». «The result of a work of kneading and leavening». «The result of a chemical process». He’s not satisfied: «Correct, but not enough. What is bread?». He guesses the embarrassment of his interlocutors: «Bread can be many different things: it can be something to be paired with, a chemical process, a sandwich or a breading. See, with Bullipedia we want to create a catalogue with all this, all the different versions of bread in the world and in nature. And, at the same time, we want to do so with every other food».

A huge, potentially endless and complex work. This is why he steals a glance at those who ask him: «When will it be ready?». You can never say «never» because it would be exaggerated yet this is the sense, even though Adrià has an intermediate goal: «With Sapiens we’ve launched a project designed for the first ten years», so since it began after the last dish served at Roses, on 30th July 2011, you can do the maths.

To be precise, Sapiens is the method, the grammar for the research that Adrià has developed on the edible universe; it is the system he uses at elBulli Lab, the workshop where every day in Barcelona 70 people analyse food from around the world under the umbrella of the elBulliFoundation. The idea is that of retracing the roots and the history of every food and unveil the secrets of its flavours and its full potential: therefore, this perspective is not simply encyclopaedic, but looks at the future, because it is from this huge work that it will be possible to go beyond what’s done so far.

Adrià at Identità Expo with the dining room staff

Adrià at Identità Expo with the dining room staff

Bullipedia will be the main, multimedia outcome of Sapiens. Adrià looks as inspired as ever. He enters the temporary restaurant at Identità Expo with the Lavazza family – vice-presidents Giuseppe and Marco, together with Francesca – after the group from Torino presented the first report on social, environmental, economic sustainability (we wrote about it here), which also means creating relationships with consumers as much as with producers, and first of all farmers.

Paolo Marchi is used to chat a lot with the Catalan chef. «How’s work, Ferran?». He gestures, «it grows more and more every day». This is the starter of a dialogue broken by the dishes and ended after coffee.

The initial project, says Adrià, is defining how to catalogue all the collected information. This research project has slightly «disconnected him from the culinary world, from current affairs» he says. He then reads the present and a little of the future too.

Ferran and Albert Adrià portrayed in Inspiring Chefs, the photographic project signed last year by Martin Schoeller for Lavazza. A prophetic image: the Adrià are about to open a place in Ibiza which will blend food and entertainment, together with the Cirque du Soleil

Ferran and Albert Adrià portrayed in Inspiring Chefs, the photographic project signed last year by Martin Schoeller for Lavazza. A prophetic image: the Adrià are about to open a place in Ibiza which will blend food and entertainment, together with the Cirque du Soleil

The former, he explains, is characterised by a new relationship with design: «A revolution». The latter will be marked by a different logic, in the kitchen: «Not a global style. Not necessarily a tendency towards vegetarianism or who knows what. No, the keyword is freedom. We will be free to choose, we will have everything: we will eat Chinese, then Italian, then meat and then fish». It is, after all, the format his brother Albert uses in Barcelona «he’s the one who most inspires me. People think this is only because he’s my brother. It is not, I truly appreciate his work».

In the Catalan capital the younger Adrià, with his elBarri group, offers within a few metres’ distance a tapas restaurant, another one serving traditional Spanish cuisine, one in nikkei style, and one more with Mexican cuisine (we wrote about it here and here)…

He began with Tickets, “la vida tapa”, which in the eyes of Ferran became a point of reference: «We have many young talented people in Spain. Tickets has shown them a road for the future. You know what? In Italy there’s something missing, the idea of an Italian prêt-à-porter for the future. Where are the heirs of Carlo, Massimiliano, Massimo? You need to find your own format for informal dining, a sort of gastrobar».

Attention, however, as there’s a huge potential: «There’s an extraordinary generation of young Italian chefs. They need to understand where to go. I’ll tell you more: all around the world we have, overall, the best generation of chefs in history. In order for them to express themselves, a new local business model is necessary so they can work in the best possible conditions».

Adrià finds the reason for this growth in terms of quality when pointing at the staff of Identità Expo and the dining room staff who have just taken a photo with him: «These guys have the most important thing, they have culture. Chefs must not think about the stars of Hollywood, but about studying a lot and never forget their passion for work. Am I humble? No, I’m not, I’m normal ».

Professionals in this field learn culinary culture «also at congresses such as Identità Milano». As for normal people, Adrià is developing another great project for them, this time with Walt Disney, «which is they key for our message to get to millions and millions of people».

With the US giants, they are fine tuning a communication strategy which will allow the promotion of a healthy diet and an aware consumption and will have, as its first step, the publication of a cookbook with over forty recipes inspired by cartoons and fantasy films.

Before then, in two months’ time, there’s another event: «In August I will be back in Milan. I will stay at least two or three days. I want to see what happens», he says pointing at Expo 2015 which – it is almost night time – is starting to get empty.


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