Stay tuned for the review of Text and pretext in Textures. elBulli, Soler & Adrià in context here on eGullet.org later in the week.
"Our dream is to make something magical using the original taste of the product. You can criticise us for many things, but it is clear that our only obsession is to ensure that our dishes have a truly identifiable taste"
Honoured by the Spanish Academy of Gastronomy and by the press, but penniless, Soler and Adrià became Soler & Adrià, a company that first of all bought the goodwill, then the walls, they built a kitchen like no other even forced the boundaries to be changed just so Cala Montjoi could be reviewed in a French eating guide (19/20 in the Gault-Millau France 93).
In 1997, the third Michelin star.
It was the decade of the foaming canister, of the founding book, the creative section would soon be an independent workshop, and the cuisine is an explosion of fused and contrasting textures and of pure and rigorous invention.
And in the summer of 1992, an exceptional notary, Joël Robuchon, gave it his seal of approval: with great praise, he would proclaim Adrià his heir.
Innovation: traditional stew but cooked to order.
Given Marketta Schilling's decision to take a back seat, Adrià and Soler, who had been building the restaurant's culinary philosophy since 1985, decided to jump in the deep end. They set up the el Bulli as a company and began to pour money into restoring the terrace, improving the building, providing a car park.
The Table of Associations. All the products on one sheet of paper, the cooking techniques on another, vinaigrettes on a third, emulsions on a fourth, herbs and spices. They come up with combinations and then they try them out. "As long as you are harsh on yourself, you do not look for gimmicks and you know the repertoire thoroughly, the system is irrefutable."
They planned to build a new kitchen, as the existing one was small -around 80m2- especially given the duo's gastronomic ambitions. But two people with such clear ideas cannot entrust the task to the first architect that comes along, even if he were brilliant – the Catalonia of Gaudí, of Puig i Cadafalch, of Tusquets and Bohigas, of Bofill, is brimming with architectural genius. It would take them three full years to carry out the research and actually build it.
Just as the case with their dishes, Adrià and Soler were the brains behind the operation. "There was total involvement. No financial considerations - that is why you have to be the bosses -, no ratios, no financial objectives. Just to come up with the kitchen of your dreams. Think of every aspect of the kitchen including the stove. And then see it materialise before you."
A crazy undertaking, doomed to failure according to the experts. However, in a world that always promises the worst, but does not know how to foresee stock market crashes, glory always favours the mad. At the end of the path, where patience - and living like a Franciscan monk - was one of the keys to the exploit, "our friends would find money and glory", as would be said in a BD (Bulli Dessein)...
Adrià to the El Correo Español, a Spanish newspaper, on the 9-3-90: "The French chefs are to cooking what the American players are to basketball" [...] "I am against new things when the person trying them does not know the great dishes along History. My advice to new chefs: before inventing new dishes, learn the classical recipes by heart"
el Bulli was noted for its dessert trolley, but the evolution of the savoury dishes, undertaken since 1983, would lead to desserts being served on a plate from 1990 onwards, which were also integrated into the menu and which would banish the dessert trolley for ever (see 1992), however excellent it was.
Or is it that there is simply a high demand for a set, all-inclusive menu, which gives a meal unity? The Adriàs began to combine savoury with sweet tastes -saffron in 1990, basil and thyme three years later.
With After 8 years of on-the-job training, the person who would become a key element in the team arrived on the scene: Marc Cuspinera Viñas, born in Barcelona on 15th May 1969, with a dual edged, savoury/sweet background, whose literary vein would quickly become apparent when the team was writing their first book.
November: Ferrán Adrià was in a fruit juice bar. After he had finished his drink, he noticed the foam that remained in the glass. He said to himself: "that's what I want!" The following year, in Barcelona, when he was at the home of a sculptor, a friend of his, [who would later design the emblematic bull's head on the table in the new Cala Montjoi kitchen], Ferrán would try using an air pump, "but the only thing I achieve was to turn the walls tomato red." What about a soda siphon? "It seemed dangerous and my commis chefs took two paces backwards when I began my experiments."
A delightful dish: the Almond and truffle terrine with a baby cuttlefish kebab.
The elBulli Tapitas (small tapas) would be born: an appetiser on the menu.
Grilled vegetables with crispy Iberian ham and truffles.
Adrià jellifies the molluscs, thoroughly explores the cooking times (always overcooked, in Spain, the clam family nearly always used to end up as a chewy cliché); preserved in oil; turned to spoons and bowls - neither the service nor the cutting should disturb the textures and temperatures -; he created new terrines.
First contribution, the textures. "I began to work with gelatines. Instead of thickening the soups with flour, butter or corn flour, I used gelatine."
Memory of the first emotions, after 1985: savoury surprises continued to be turned out, but the guests seemed to be rather tired by the time they arrived at the desserts. And there was therefore the normal deficit of pastry cooks: what was the use point of killing yourself over your work, when after 20 savoury dishes, the client couldn't eat another thing?
Was that the reason why the youngest Adrià put so much passion into promoting desserts? Or rather was it the result working all the sections of the restaurant and both brothers being intelligent enough not to be involved in a fratricidal war (Spain had already seen enough blood!), was it to be savoury or sweet? What seemed to be a mere quip of the elder of the Adriàs ("my cooking is strange? And the doe with cranberries and chestnut purée?") would reflect a sort of a cross-over/fusion.
In return, the savoury chefs allowed their dessert colleagues to use tools that had previously been exclusively reserved for them, such as the meat slice used to cut ham and other charcuteries - for example, to make crêpes out of thin slices of melon.
Understanding the sea: the world of molluscs.
Albert Adrià joined the dessert section, where some à la carte dishes coexisted with the dessert trolley, which would have a huge impact on the whole restaurant. It would mean the symbiosis of two cuisines between 1991 -1992 [They were already talking about a sweet carpaccio around 1990].
Contrasting temperatures, textures.
An important moment: the first jellies.
Using Michel Trama's technique, a wave of fruit slices and caramelised vegetables.
A king prawn carpaccio with cèps which would also become emblematic.
New serving methods.
This year would see the development of the desserts menu and by means of one of the three techniques used to create the elBulli dishes, that of Adaptation, inaugurated in 1991 with the revamping of Mel i Mató - a traditional dessert made with honey and fresh cheese.
At the same time, caramel or marmalades (lemon, tomato), and even custard, were found in savoury dishes (1992-93).
Rice pudding, custard slice and other terms from the world of desserts invaded the savoury sector.
Fruits became starters, fully-fledged dishes; and it then seemed even logical when vanilla was used in savoury dishes the year after.
First savoury granités, as well.
The Chinese porcelain dish was adopted to take the sizzle of the salamander to the table. No need for baking, and no decorations.
Ferrán Adrià, best Spanish chef - by the Spanish Gastronomy Academy.
Creation of the Menestra en Textures. Menestra is a Basque dish (from Navarra, the purists would say), similar to mixed vegetables and eaten throughout Spain. [In one of the Adrià versions, vintage 94: two pieces of avocado, framed by a tomato purée, sweet corn mouse, cauliflower mousse and basil jelly. A quenelle of fresh almond ice-cream, a spoonful of peach granité and a bouquet of beetroot mousse, topped with basil and fresh almonds]. Back to the future - for the Spaniards, a landmark.
The first research phase, which focused mainly on tapas, is well and truly over. Adrià and Soler are working like crazy on their first book.
All clients are important, of course. Yet, this year would be the first time that a superstar would visit the bullimen, who would later become their French lawyer: Joël Robuchon.
245m2 dug out of the rock of the former garden are added to the 80m2 of the original kitchen, covered with gravel and soil, the outside blends into the garden. And the large windows display the kitchen and fill it with light - and bring to life the two sculptures by Xavier Medina Campeny, one of which, the bull's head embedded in the wooden table in the passageway, would become internationally renown. Gas banished, the stoves (Thirode) are electric. José García and Quimet Casademunt designed the lighting, the hot air heating and the air-conditioning systems. The separate pastry section has the same feeling as the passageway - with its wooden table and its own sculpture. Fridges for each section and an independent cold chamber. The prep section and kitchen are separated from the main kitchen by a double pass door. Finally, the wine serving area is built into a module, where the finishing touch is a bar. Both the original furniture and the finishing touches are made out of the local stone.
Corn mousse in a glass ["Why a glass? there were moulds, but I wasn't interested in them at all. I wanted the glass as a concept and I filled a glass with my liquid mousse"].
There were already sweet tartlets and sweet involtini.
Cold jellies, new soups, new sauces
First deal out of the restaurant: purchasing a historic hotel-restaurant, the Mas Pau, next to Figueres, that was so dear to Dalí, and at about 30km from elBulli, which looses the chef, Xavier Sacristà, and the restaurant manager, Toni Gerez, partners in the new company which they would run and then end up later being the sole owners.
In the brand new elBulli kitchen, Sacristà, who has barely had time to get it dirty, is replaced in June, by a sensational duo: Marc Cuspinera, chef and Eduard Bosch, sous-chef.
On 18-11, launch of the El Bulli book at the restaurant Dim Sum, at the Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya. El sabor del Mediterrani /The Flavour of the Mediterranean, Ed Empúries, written by Ferrán Adrià. Published in Spanish, Catalán and German.
Commotion in the Spanish restaurant world. After reading the book, creative young chefs spring up like all over the place.
Corn ravioli, predecessor of the liquid croquette, in a porcelain spoon. A wonder - long and difficult to prepare - very easy to eat.
The savoury sorbets soon arrive. "This is not an invention, but the creation and launch of a concept."
On one fine day, another foaming canister, the one intended for Chantilly cream, caught the stubborn Ferrán's attention in the corner where it had been left by nearly two generations of chefs .
The senses as a starting point for creativity. Ferrán Adrià claims to then be acting "more as a client than as a chef": cooking seen by the chef from the dining room. Hence his following obsession with flavours.
Albert Adrià comes up with new simplicities: frosted fruit kebabs, made using pieces of mango, strawberry, raspberry, bound together with basil leaves, dipped in softly-whipped egg whites, coated in sugar, left in the oven at 100ºC for one hour, or he mixes 150g of condensed milk and 20g of flour, drizzles the mixture into slices on a tray, decorates them with coffee grains and bakes them at 180ºC for 7’...
New sashimi's (tuna with cherries).
Changes in the structure of the dishes : what is a sauce? A soup? An evolving concept.
The focus is more on creating techniques and concepts than dishes. In other words, the first omelette was a step forwards, omelettes are only declinations.
March 26th: Ferrán Adrià takes the Chantilly canister to make foams without butter and without reproach. "My first attempt was a jellied consommé and I could have shouted Eureka!: it has emulsified. How was I going to thicken the foam? The answer was to use gelatine to give body to the fruit or vegetable juices." Conclusion: "anything that can be used to make a mousse can be turned into a foam. And above all, the tastes are respected as there is no fat, cream or butter."
But "don't get it wrong, jellies should not be confused, i.e. they're gelatines used as a preparation or there is the gelatine used our way which allows us to experiment with thickness and textures." Which gelatine? "I usually use fish-based sheets of gelatine. They melt perfectly in your mouth and they are not lumpy."
Destroying their appeal? They had got rid of the famous dessert trolley two years earlier and the Ferrán/Albert Adrià smooth fusion of savoury and sweet is under way. They swear that one day - maybe in 2004 - they will completely get rid of desserts.
Is that the right way to express it? Or rather: They will seek a meal in harmony from the first to the last mouthful.
A period of tapas creativity begins and will continue until it is embodied in the Tapiplatos, a portmanteau word and yet, what is more Spanish than this common ground between the dish and its ideal mock-up?.
In the period 1991-94, there was rice-pudding ice cream, asparagus and truffle Irish coffee (served in a frozen glass with cold truffles, then the warm asparagus soup and topped with a slice o f black truffle); short crust Parmesan tart with onion, bacon and herb salad; jellied date mussels with cold fennel soup; mató - Catalan soft cheese coated with chives and poppy seeds, fresh tomatoes and marinated anchovies; warm mató with caviar and beetroot sorbet; Cala Montjoi sea urchins in cèp jelly; truffle mousse and jelly, fresh pasta and Iberian ham salad; caviar in apple jelly served in a porcelain spoon; cuttlefish with marrow (stuffed with a mixture of beef marrow, sorrel and mushrooms; served with a piece of toast with slices of grilled marrow, slivers of parmesan and finely - diced sorrel); asparagus in cèp involtini...
Fruit flooded the savoury section -cf. Saint-Jacques scallops with red currents and extra virgin olive oil; warm foie gras with mango: chopped brains and prawn with a tomato gratin and a hint of mint ... Other dishes: clam chop suey; warm brie with shellfish; dishes that are normally associated with desserts served as main courses; fusions.
First degustation menu. Concept: “Just like tapas, in the elBulli Menu, how you eat it is as important as what you eat.
The new ravioli
Working hard on foams.
First work on what they will later call The savory/iced world. A world where the frontiers are set between the 1992 granité and the 1994 sorbets.
From a menu served in 1994, but where the vintages of the creations are mixed: rock mussels in fennel jelly, vanilla potato, lemon shellfish and apple salad; brain and caviar carpaccio with beetroot salad, sweet corn mousse-truffle juice and foie gras mousse and a very African lamb fillet à l’orange, orange blossom and cinnamon…
The highlight of this menu: Marrow with Caviar: a 40g piece of marrow, lightly floured, then grilled. Finished with 10g of caviar on top – sea-salt out-of-this-world – and a cauliflower purée on one side, for bitterness.
Soler and Adrià buy the bricks and mortar and found their company, elBulli SL.
Expansive: it would lead to the setting up of the Mas Pau hotel and restaurant; the Talaia restaurant in Barcelona (with a bulliman, Carles Abellán, as manager and Adrià/Soler in an advisory role, Talaia would become a breeding ground for talent: Sergi Arola, Marc Singland, Oriol Balaguer would get their hands dirty there) and elBullicatering, with the beginnings of the workshop in the Acuario - Barcelona's Aquarium.
El Bulli. El sabor del Mediterrani, best cookery book according to the Spanish Academy of Gastronomy. Also awarded the National Book Prize the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalan Government).
Spectacular start for elBullicatering, in the business of organising banquets: 3,200 guests at Girona enjoyed a elBulli-style menu. And just like at elBulli, without waiting between dishes.
Change of tide from the savoury world to the sweet world and vice-versa. In 1992 and 1993 Albert Adrià, became the boss of the sugar cuisine - a term used to replace the obsolete term of patisserie- and along with his brother develops the idea of a menu where determining savoury and sweet and even the crossing of codes by both parties, is more and more difficult.
They already have a name Mundo Helado (Frozen World), for this world that breaks down the barriers delimiting the savoury, the sweet, and the garnish ... F o r example, a Mango sorbet with warm duck foie gras.
The first savoury Pralines come this year, with the pine nut praline, which would lead to a brainwave a year later, in 1995 with the deconstruction of Catalan spinach.
So much fruit? In the starters, in the savoury dishes - melon, mango, peaches, litchis, red currants, kumquats, blood oranges, apples, grapes, pears - "is more due to their acidity than to their sweet giving properties." [Therefore, the acidiTrend before the letter].
More brutal was the resurgence of dairy produced by way of yoghurts, cheese but also brie, cream and lots of Parmesan and mozzarella - which would mark by their presence the advent in the kitchen of the Danone generation. [Attention! we are not advertising here, we are alluding to Daniel Carasso, the short man from Barcelona of 1907, called Danone in the restaurant, and whose father, distant ancestor of Adrià and company, at one time proclaimed to be the elixir of life of the Bulgarians and the nick name of his son.
Older tradition and more of a southern one - rose water and orange water added to savoury dishes. Without the author knowing if it was a prior project, the surprising way the kitchen and dining room were linked would end up with both ends of the table de la passe becoming cluttered.
Perhaps that the restaurant was different in every way paradoxically led to the smoothing out of internal differences, the chefs working all sections of the restaurant, as and when required. Hence, power struggles are over.
Like cooks, things change
Meals would conclude with soups that were more or less sweet
Such as pineapple soup in I994, which was also the year of the first siphon foam in the sweet world, coconut and woodland strawberry soup, and the transfusion from savoury to sweet with beetroot, fennel, melanosporum truffle, fresh almonds, mushrooms, tomatoes, corn, avocados, olive oil...
Do you like your menestra sweet or savoury? who cares! elBulli who revamped a savoury menestra in 1992, would make a new sweet one.
The '94 menu boasted: avocado sorbet and sunflower seeds, lobster salad and poultry confit; 15g of caviar in a bowl filled with a fresh almond foam; warm foie gras with a mango sorbet, chicory and vinegar - a neo Catalan wine vinegar (cabernet sauvignon), matured in barrels for 18 months -, Chinese noodles and shellfish with Soya; fish in Romesco sauce and fromage frais (this is a delightful traditional Catalan sauce made simply by mashing tomatoes, garlic, hazelnuts, grilled bread, the pulp of a dried pepper and pepper) shoulder of rabbit in salmorejo (marinade from the Canaries comprised of garlic , rock salt , pepper, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, white wine, olive oil and pimentón - the Spanish for paprika - ...)
Feel a shiver down your spine? Mango sorbet and duck foie gras - cold going savoury, this being typical of the desserts.
The same year the saga continues with a sorbet of rice pudding, parmesan, truffle, tomato, and basil.
And one with avocado gratin with sunflower seeds.
Height of the trend and of this type of cuisine.
The research continues though, and the cooks and researchers impassioned about the possibilities of aroma/smell in cooking.
Tools such as baby bottles, used for controlling sauces and foaming canisters come into the kitchen for everyone to use; the chrome pan and the salamander are used more and more as well as the stove and oven by tefal not to mention the new, more powerful freezers - sashimi octopus would hence find a place on the menu, with its wonderful tenderness and texture (and perhaps would be free of undesirable hosts/preserving agents such as anisaki).
Used routinely was the licuadora (liquidiser) And the vacuum packing machine.
But perhaps the most significant event was the way techniques changed across the board around about 1995 from the desserts to the snacks which kick off the meal.
Hence, crunchy snacks named Crunch of honey and maní.
But the year 95 is also fruitful: "we used the magic crack of caramel in savoury dishes", remembers Albert, which gave us potatoes with honey.
And the next year saw the arrival of the Apple and Pacharán soup (a typically Basque eau-de-vie) and basil fromage frais.
Mediterranean Gamba with Parmesan.
Albert Adrià, already 25, banishes excessive sugar usage in his section; from now on whipped cream would be used, W.C in elBulli language, to prepare a crème anglaise.
After and for a string of years from 1991 until 1995, I served a cold soup of lychees and fennel granité, a coconut mousse with red berries, mango and cocoa tuiles (thin biscuits), mandarin granité, rose and cinnamon mousse, a sweet with Cointreau with a chocolate sorbet, creamed coconut banana chocolate with curry, a sweet with chocolate, apples and jasmine ...
The first Tubos (tubes with a liquid filling): with a chocolate and cocoa sabayon. A must - chocolate in different textures with apricot, a direct product of his work on textures which had already given the Menestra and the declinations of Tomato and Pine apple.
Marc Puig-Pey i Boher (born in Barcelona on the 1Oth December 1972) became pastry chef.
The guides give: 9.5/10 (Gourmetour) and 9.75/10 (García Santos), and this is after being awarded a 2nd Michelin star and 4 chef's hats and a Spanish 19/20 in the GaultMillau France guide which makes Cala Montjoi a French cove. ("It's not for us to sing our praises but what a great idea we had in 1993 to change the boundary to include elBulli early on when it had 2 chefs' hats, a fantastic restaurant that attracts gourmets from all over the world...").
Unsuspectingly, Gault and Millau adopt the approach of Ferrán Adrià after the Maximin stand (maximalist maxims which would maximise creativity in the kitchen) of not copying: "... And this cuisine which is revolutionising Catalan gastronomy and leads it to unprecedented refinements without betraying its spirit does not owe anything to anybody.., You will look in vain for the slightest trace of copying..."
Year of caramelisation
Minimalism is reflected in mouthful sizes.
Snacks -before tapas on the menu-, inspired by snacking common in the towns and even at motorway stops.
Carpaccio of cray-fish.
A new caramelising technique.
Before opening, 180 trainees would do three-day training courses, nearly all of them professionals...
Best restaurant of the year in the guide Gourmetour.
Dinner at the Savoy (London) as part of a special tasting of wines from Marqués de Riscal -featuring, for example a bottle from 1871
In the elitist Lo mejor de la gastronomía (García Santos) elBulli is always primus inter pares with 9.75/10. Roses included again in the GaultMillau France guide giving 4 chefs' hats again and 19/20.
El Bulli obtains the third Michelin star.
Golden Key from the monthly magazine Gault-Millau.
Program on the restaurant by the American channel PBS.
Features with other starred European chefs in a film made in Crillon (Paris) in tribute to the American chef and columnist Pierre Franeys.
In Barcelona, the meals of elBullicatering for 150/800 guests will be the gastronomic novelty of the year.
Whilst the declination of a product was born in the desserts' section -pineapple in textures - it is in the savoury section too now with a tomato in textures. [This is the period in which some clients criticise a definite omnipresence of sugar].
Cornets are used for Cornet of bread with morsels of Roquefort and passion fruit and a Banana kebab with underside of tuna.
The birth of the pre-dessert. The first is Tarte Tatin with apples and duck foie gras.
Adaptations of some productions unique to Ice-cream makers, like chocolate covered lollies - the author gets emotional at this point.
Most significantly, The Parmesan Corte would be born (usually a soft ice-cream between to types of crunchy rectangles) My particular fad: two crunchy wafers with Parmesan enclosing a Parmesan ice-cream.
Its first declination was also unforgettable: Corte with foie gras whose ice-cream is with duck foie gras and whose oblongs are Pain d'épices (traditionally bread with honey and mixed spices).
Birth of a new technique, termed encerradito (a thin caramel wrap) which would lay the foundations for the laying of the revolutionary Oeuf de caille caramélisé (Caramelised quail's egg)
The dessert of the year was without doubt the mind-blowing Assiette des épices (plate of spices). Also, first deconstruction in the sweet department with the elBulli version of the pseudo traditional Tiramisú -as you already know, a dessert invented in Italy with bits of everything in the 1960's because teenagers were no longer eating dessert.
First sweet Encerradito (with mascarpone).
Another future great enters by the famous little door by the name of Oriol Castro Forns (Barcelona: 23-3-74), who had studied for six years then worked i n some very good Spanish restaurants not to mention Paco Torreblanca's worshipped patisserie Totel, situated in Elda, Alicante. He becomes the chef of a very elBulli section - the warm starters section.
In 1996 he had already done patisserie training there, and at the end of the season, he would be given a position in the creative section. And he remains there until the present day.
Albert Raurich Foyo - future chef - trains there (another star studded career?) (Barcelona; 14-7-1970), future chef.
Marc Cuspinera's time is spent running the Creative section with Albert Adrià and leaves the elBulli chef role to Edouard Bosch, who is in time replaced by Rafael Morales.
In the snacks section of the Menu, Corte with Parmesan ice makes its debut appearance.
Pistachulines are created. The first one with pistachios.
This is the year of Provocation (the smoke foam) and it's at this time that professionals in the industry begin to take sides, indignant reactions on the one side and fervent support on the other. The Spanish microcosm becomes divided - those for and those against. This means war? To make life more difficult elBulli would make the menu as practically the only option.
La Vanguardia, Paris, 30-3: "Ferrán Adrià, the chef of elBulli , goes on television with Robuchon."
Los secretos de elBulli (The Secrets of El Bulli; published by Altaya) by Ferrán Adrià - is sold even at bookstalls - and marks the start of a collection of Great Gastronomic works. It quickly sells more than 60 000 copies. Perhaps for the first time in a clear prose (text edited by Josep Mª Pinto) this cheap book with popular ambition describes, by way of the menu, the work of a well-known chef whose cooking is theoretically complex. Here are 4 extracts: "In brief, being avantgarde means to be before your time.
Paradoxically, only time will tell whether you were or weren't." "When there is nothing to show for a relentless day's work creation seems to have escaped us. The act of creating should be regarded similarly, planning with a cool head. In my case creativity is just one of the many factors in my job. When I am struck by a new idea I take it as a gift, but I do not forget that it's also the natural consequence of a piece of work. And I try not to give the idea more attention than it deserves." "In the popular melon and Parma ham dish, the contrast of the sweet and savoury elements is no greater than in any of my dishes." "I have a game readers can play. In the following pages there are two very similar animals. 'Which would you like on your plate?' you turn the page and you see a spider crab and opposite on the odd page you see a spider."
A tapa: small parcel of squid and coconut with soya, ginger and mint.
The Escoffier foundation - the foundation that led him to hear the maxim of Maximin, invites Ferrán Adrià, already Líder Máxino, to give a lesson.
The joining of the sections is plain to see. Not only would there be a sweet aubergine ravioli and a savoury ravioli in an aubergine soup, but also two versions of a beetroot ravioli. [a successful experiment but without a future? the liquid biscuit, in a cornet.]
Third Michelin star
Mastery of agar-agar enables the chefs to do better work with cold gelatine dishes and above all leads them to discover warm gelatines. Birth of the warm gelatine (apple gelatine with Roquefort). "The first workshop had dreamy views in a corner of the Barcelona Aquarium - elBullicatering had its headquarters there too - overlooked the Mediterranean sea but it is fairly bare- one table, 4 books and two exercise books, a chair for Oriol and another one for me" recalls Albert Adrià.
First Synergy menu "until this point everything was themed: clouds, gelatines... but after consulted customers it became clear that this approach was a bit tired. So then we decided to try with creations from different years - thus creating a kind of synergy."
"Adrià thinks that creativity is not in combining a variety of elements, even if they surprise and clash, but that it is expressed by way of a new concept, new structure or new technique. [...] His foams for example that do not contain egg whites or cream. He adds to a foaming canister a purée or a fruit sauce, with a tiny amount of gelatine. He siphons and it thickens giving the most natural of mousses possible that is above all more flavoursome than the classic version. At El Bulli it's the cuisine that runs the show." Rafael García Santos. Lo mejor de la gastronomía española 1998.
Flicking through the García Santos '98 I came across a selection of the best new creations of the year, featuring, besides elBulli's small parcels of cuttlefish, a Gazpacho granité cucumber jus and crunchy Iberian ham (Las Rejas), tears of petit pois barnacles in jelly toffee with salted butter with Petit Pois (Martín Berasategui), Arzak's infusion of cod and natural tomatoes, it's potatoes with whipped cream and its cream of txangurro with tarragon liquorice, Zuberoa's small bowl of creamed rice infused with lemon and cinnamon and in Relais & Châteaux San Román de Escalante's, "exquisite" Croustillant de Torta del Casar, a great Spanish cheese, coconut and chocolate. As these are starred restaurants (Arzak being the eldest of the Spanish restaurants with three stars), the gastronomy is guaranteed to be high-class The García Santos guide thus acknowledges the avant-garde trend.
A very silly question - Could a cuisine - like that of the Spanish chefs, whose mark was a product and routine and clever tricks designed to hide shortcomings be hoisted up to such levels of creativity without elBulli?. At Cala Montjoi, it's the year of the first versions of the cereal based commercial snacks, and others stave off the hunger at motorway bar restaurants, "inspiration is found in life insists Ferrán Adrià- and travelling gives you greater inspiration ..."
(In the elBulli spirit snacks and petits fours are ¡Hola! and ¡Adiós! i.e. "welcome" for the snacks and "see you soon" on for the petits fours - "the aim is to relax the customer"). The partnership with the monthly magazine Woman, starts, which is a kind of Catalan Biba with three pages each month dedicated at first to recipes and after elBullitaller is established the focus is shifted to chefs tricks, cooking techniques and tools. "The readers asked for cookery lessons, and as we do not like the word lessons we prefer to talk about a cookery handbook."
Reader's words: These women can be delighted because everything is clear, easy to grasp - making some tasks easier - there are not 30 cooks at every Woman reader's home.
Woman supplement 70 new and light dishes for the summer plus an insight into the cold cuisine of Ferrán Adrià, which anyone can reproduce.
Great discoveries in the kitchen aids department. First there's the Paco Jet, which, in conjunction with the Thermomix ("the best mixer in the world" according to Adrià who is obsessed with textures) would become the main vehicle for research as well as for cooking and finishing touches. Contract with Casino de Madrid - formerly one of the most elitist of circles - to showcase El Bulli cooking in the restaurant. The relationship between cooking and management is excellent (the chef Paco Roncero would hone is craft through being in regular contact with Adrià), and this would lead to the idea to set up a subsidiary of elBullicatering there.
On July 19th the Magazine -one of the Sunday supplements of the daily La Vanguardia, selling more than 400 000 copies- gives nine pages of its ideas section to elBulli's foams. Unprecedented recipes, but nevertheless popular enough to be put out as they are. A profusion of foams flavoured with Catalan cream, beetroot with yoghurt, raspberries and pistachios; raspberry in puff-pastry, piña colada; tomato salad with a blood orange foam
This one's a masterpiece: Meringued clams with sea water foam! there is also an oyster version. And the taste on the palette really is that of the sea, which is I suppose not that surprising given you are dining in a cove, although ... In October, triumph in Italy after a demonstration in the tasting room of Slow Food.
Publication of The desserts of elBulli, by Albert Adrià (published by Empúries). Desserts are (from then on) a lot more than just recipes - they're a concept. There is a blurring of codes with savoury entering the sweet section and vice-versa - he remarks, "the patissier of a restaurant must be like a chef whilst the chef must learn techniques from the patissier" One term to define the new order would be "dessert cooking" The book (dedicated "to my brother Ferrán") names Michel Guérard as a pioneer and its a duo which would establish a chef and patissier partnership which would lead to the creation of a chef's school and the one that would train Maximin and Torres. Despite the book's high price tag, 7000 copies are sold on pre-order.
Soon after it would be picked out as the best book in the world for desserts at the Gastronomic book fair of Perigord in November 1998.
The Bullithèque that would give the elbullibooks thus starts to take shape. Conversely, I don't know if I know myself in cooking to write about it... Soler is a publisher/printer, Ferrán a collection manager/proof-reader, and I assure you that as authors and art directors are as marvellous as they were running elBulli. 18-12. Nit del Turisme (Tourism evening 1,500 guests), elBulli catering serves, with an unusual schedule, a mushroom escabèche with lobster; empedrat of monkfish (a typical salad with catjang beans, onion and tomato); Catalan shepherd's pie, savoury nougat. The shepherd's pie is sensational. First a stew of ox tail and then ten or so chefs with a piping bag would crown the dish with the foam of pureed potato.
Vinçon, a shop oriented towards designer objects and El Corte Inglés, the Selfridges of Spain, would lap up every last drop...
The foaming canister is revisited, sold with recipes signed by Ferrán Adrià, and becomes a popular Christmas present.
Making their debut in 1998 garrapiñados and pralines (sugar coatings ans nougats)
Many discoveries in 1998-2002 including Maldon salt, fried sweet corn, wasabi, tartufo bianco, sunflower seeds, tomato seeds, tamarind paste and green pineapple.
"Wait", he cries, end of 1998, "get Silvia in" [Fernández Castro; Roses; 2-6-71] and she takes care of the daily running of the restaurant from then on.
The very recent revolution that is the warm jelly crosses code becoming the cold dessert Red fruit quince with curdled milk.
Although created in 1997 the pre-desserts were not made a fixed feature of the menus until 1999, with creations of the previous year included such as Sorbet of grilled sweetcorn and Roquefort sorbet with a hot apple/lemon jelly.
Temperature wise, hot foams appear at the end of the menu in 1999 with Hot foam of dark chocolate and Campari and Hot foam of white chocolate and coffee with lychee sorbet.
Meanwhile, the first workshop, the one set up in the Acuario of Barcelona dedicated in 1999 to intensive use of the Paco Jet discovers a problem that turns out to be profitable. "While making some sorbets, a sort of ice powder was produced. The combination of excess cold and a high fat content prevented the sorbet from forming, whilst the friction of the blades left frozen micro particles. It was a texture that we had never come across. It widened our vision for future of desserts. First a process was devised to reproduce the fault, and the second stage - the launch of the dish - was very successful. It was called Polvo Helado (iced powder) and it was just that". First cold agar-agar gelatine with the first discovery consommé tagliatelle.
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