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Santi Santamaria: passion(ate) matters


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#1 Daily Gullet Staff

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 12:30 PM

by Pedro Espinosa

Characterizing a chef and his cuisine without falling into stereotypes is a challenging task. If the chef is Santi Santamaría of Can Fabes restaurant in Sant Celoni, Spain, we could say that he was the first chef in Catalonia to receive three stars from the Michelin guide eleven years ago; we could cite his belief that taste is the ultimate measure of a dish. We could try to establish links between his cuisine and the gastronomic heritage of Catalonia. But we would learn little from such broad statements. Behind the apparent simplicity of Santi’s propositions lies an elaborate and emotional cuisine, rooted in well-reasoned theories.

In July 2004, after a meal in Can Fabes’s casual dining room, Espai Coch, preceded by a dinner at Can Fabes, we had the opportunity to talk at length with Santi Santamaría and experience his passion for gastronomy. Presenting the results of that session is a much better way for you to understand the foundations of Chef Santamaría’s cuisine.

Pedro Espinosa: How did you start cooking? After all, you have a technical background in industry.

Santi Santamaría: It was a subject of interest at my parents’ home. I’m an only child. Both my father, who passed away four years ago, and my mother cooked very well. To me, seeing a man cooking was normal at home. My mother worked in a textile factory, and my father worked the land. My mother had a more rigid schedule, whereas my father had more flexibility. So, sometimes, my father cooked lunch for me. Even when I grew up, starting to go by myself to Barcelona and moving in circles where the political and cultural views were strong, Sunday was a special day. It was a day when I had lunch with my father and my mother: the three of us in the kitchen, talking a great deal about cooking, about dishes. That is, cooking has always had a very important role in my family. So important that -- imagine -- I went through my youth without a TV until I was twenty. At home, TV comes from sheer absentmindedness.

It was a fantastic atmosphere. My father, for instance, took me to the Cine Fórum when I was fourteen. I saw all the films by Saura, Buñuel, Hitchcock -- the complete retrospectives. We even subscribed to magazines written in Catalan, which was quite unusual at the time. I was very familiar with all Catalonia’s intellectual culture. And cooking was a natural piece of this environment, something to share.

I had an important disappointment during the Transition, having become very tired of working in a corporation. I didn’t enjoy my technical career; my thing would have been studying art, to study at the Massana. But when I told my parents they got frightened: that wouldn’t bring home any income. This kid, they thought, an only child, if he goes to art school we won’t see him anymore. I had to earn some money. The option, thanks to a relative, was to start working as technical draftsman apprentice. I studied at night, I majored and I started studying for quantity surveyor which I didn’t finish.

I was doing very bureaucratic work at the company, with lots of people under my supervision -- sixty people. All this made me extremely tired. I couldn’t take it any longer, to the point that I talked to Ángels, whom I’ve been dating since we were fifteen and who was working in a kindergarten, and to my father, who was very ill and paralyzed by a thrombosis. This building, the family home for two hundred years, was in ruins. So I told my father, “We’ve got to do something, this house is falling over us. We’re going to take out a mortgage on it and start a restaurant.” My father did it, which was something uncharacteristic for his way of thinking. We started the restaurant with a very unrealistic mentality: we’re going to cook, I’m going to have time for writing, to read, to paint. Our friends will come.

Pedro: Very idyllic.

Santi: The first year was a brutal economic failure. People came, always. I’ve always had the public . . . well, except when I made my biggest change, from the popular Catalonian cooking I started with -- what I had seen in the family -- when I removed the daily menu. It was a 2.1€ menu (we’re talking about 23 years ago).

When I made this change, I went through a very difficult time: we removed the daily menu, the restaurant got empty, I wasn’t used to seeing just two tables. Before, you had fifty people eating the 2.1€ menu and it was glorious to see the restaurant, but you did the math and it didn’t work. Ángels and I said, we’re going to take this seriously. And that’s how the story began: we started to travel a lot, to study how the restaurants in Europe were. We got technically educated . . .

Pedro: So you’re self-taught, aren’t you?

Santi: Exactly. I’ve never worked in any other restaurant. Not even as a stagiaire. I’ve learned from people who’ve worked with me. From each and every one of them I’ve learned something. But above anything, I love to eat. I’m passionate about gastronomy. And that’s how I started. Today, after twenty years, there are things that are very academic: how to make a consomé, how to clarify it properly.

Pedro: There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Santi: Sure, you can’t reinvent, each day, a series of foundations that lie on a set of technical principles, almost scientific, many of them. You have to learn them. This learning process, when you’re self-taught, can take you as long as five years when it could have been learned in two. I remember when I started to make foie gras: I wasted tons of foie due to the bad results I got, until I made friends with a French cook, Philippe Serre, who came here for three months. Three years ago, he spent a year and a half with me. I realized that I hadn’t learned what a liver was, how it evolved with cooking times, what its melting temperature was, how I should remove the nerves -- things that are explained in the books.

But you realize that in cooking there’s a component of handicraft, of craftsmanship, that has to be learned. There’s an essential theoretical component. I do believe that you should learn theory, but undoubtedly handicraft too. You have to learn both, and there are things that must be taught to you. Otherwise, we would have as many good cooks as good cookbooks.

Pedro: Santi, how would you define your style?

Santi: Well, it’s Santi Santamaría’s style. A cook who is inspired by what he eats, by the great all-time cooking classics, whether medieval cooks, French cooks from the Revolution until now, or great contemporary Japanese cooks. (T)here’s a capability of wanting to learn and transmit, through cooking, the sensations of pleasure that I receive.

Pedro: And tradition?

Santi: Tradition. It’s complex, because we internalize a lot of the flavors. I love to retain tastes I like. When we speak of traditional cooking, it’s the cooking of the past; it’s the heritage cooking; it’s family cooking; it’s domestic cooking; it’s local cooking. This local cooking -- it makes me crazy, and many times is what I like to eat when I have to cook at home (a cod fish with samfaina, a stew of veal with mushrooms or some simple cannelloni). This cooking is not what I like to offer to the customer at the restaurant, because I believe I can make more contributions to the customer’s enjoyment.

There are many contributions that can be made to traditional cooking: new doesn’t only mean unprecedented. I think that believing this is a mistake. To think that we take some ingredients and we mix them for the first time . . . Well, for the first time here, maybe it’s already being done in Tahití for some time, or in California, where they’re doing fusion cooking in which anything goes . . . Unprecedented doesn’t necessarily mean new. In principle, it’s unknown.

What can be done is to renew. The word renew is beautiful; renew the cooking from an ethical, human behavior. Based on what we put on a dish, we build an environment, we build a society. Based on how we manipulate ingredients, we’re stating something. I don’t use any product that is not natural, which hasn’t been elaborated by me. Well, excepting products like sugar or butter, but I control what I serve. I don’t work with manufactured products that come with ingredients I don’t know -- things with preservatives and stabilizers.

We start from a product in its purest state, and what I like to do with this product in its purest state is adapt it to my preferences and adapt it to enable it to transmit pleasure, without betraying what in essence is the product –- so that you can recognize what you’re eating, so that you don’t have to go through an intellectual exercise each time you eat. I don’t think every time you eat you should have to wonder what you’re eating. There’s an instinctive point, a natural point. There are too many traffic lights, too many zebra crossings in life. Should you be in this mood when you go to a restaurant?

At the end, there’s also an intuitive part that I defend. I defend something that is essential to me: the transformation of the elements, passing from raw to cooked. As Cunqueiro said in Occident’s Christian Cooking, we’re people more of cooked than of raw, even when we can add small things in the context of our work, of our cooking. But essentially, the transformation of raw elements to cooked ones is what I like.

Clearly, this is not the application of an industrial method to a craftsman cooking. This is to stay in the craftsman stage. Because each day, each dish is a piece. In every dish you have a tremendous margin of error. That’s why it requires you to be in the kitchen everyday, correcting constantly: a bit more salt, cooked a bit more, a bit less . . . We’re not automatons, we’re orchestra conductors who have a whole ensemble that has to sound how the conductor feels. To me, when the conductor is an automaton, the music -- or the cooking -- disappears. It becomes this music that bothers us so much with things that have nothing to do with the instrument or with the magic of the cooking point, of the control of fire, of cold, of knowing how to season well.

Pedro: You’ve said that cooking is emotion.

Santi: Cooking is emotion for yourself and for others. Of course, cooking is emotion, but you can’t deny that each person has a different background. Cooking is so subjective that the emotions that each person receives can be enjoyed by some and not at all by others.

What is beginning to concern me a bit is the reason why people want to know so much before going to a restaurant. There’s little room for surprise. Why do you have to know so much about a restaurant before visiting it? All that remains is for you to eat the dish, because you even know the recipe, you’ve seen it photographed a thousand times. Doesn’t a lot get lost, aren’t many sensations lost when you know so much about a dish before eating it? I wonder.

Pedro: Could be. But regular customers --

Santi: [interrupting] No. That’s the thing. Here is one of the beautiful aspects of cooking. Why do restaurants, including ours, have to change the menu so frequently? I mean, when you find a really good dish, why do you have to change it? Why novelty just for the sake of novelty? Why are we denying a customer who has enjoyed a given dish the possibility of having it again? Because there’s no capability of discovery? I don’t think so. This is like refusing to listen to a given piece of music. When you like something, you want to feel it again: a folk singer, whatever . . . Cooking is the same. You want to enjoy those emotions again.

Pedro: That’s true. I still remember a roasted kid I had here years ago.

Santi I can’t stop doing that kid.

Then we have the technique issue. Techniques must help you to improve dishes. You’re not making cuisine simply because you’re doing constructions with ingredients that resemble sculptures or architectural pieces. Cooking is more about sensing than seeing. Now it seems it's the other way around. People need much more seeing than sensing. When we were kids, and we were told not to eat with the eyes, it referred to the quantity of food: “I would eat all this!” Now, you have to eat with the eyes, but this doesn’t refer to quantity. You have to see extremely beautiful things. But those beautiful things are very relative. Beauty in cooking is also very subjective.

Pedro: You’ve mentioned the products before.

Santi: Well, now is the hardest season for me. The cooking I’d like the most, which gives me more strength, is that of fall and winter. Also spring. All the seasons where I have many wild ingredients. I like mushrooms, I like truffles, I like game. Ingredients where man hasn’t taken part. This is fantastic, a privilege. The ability to interpret nature and present it in a dish.

When you have some wild asparagus, some mushrooms, it’s culinary poetry, it’s knowing how to distinguish the nuances. You see these creative cooks, and you see tuber melanosporum in summer, or boletus edulis when there aren’t any in the market and they aren’t in season in your region, and you taste them and they haven’t any taste. They come from Poland, Hungary, Central Europe. Like the rovellons (lactarius deliciosus) that come from China. Finding nuances in cooking, in the flavors of products, requires from both the one who’s cooking and from the one who’s eating a certain degree of complicity, not only with what’s going to be eaten, but also with the environment that’s being visited, along with some knowledge, some culture we could say, about ingredients and sustenance.

Pedro: You’ve said that you wouldn’t use some products. Are there any techniques that you wouldn’t use?

Santi: No. You should be open to anything. What happens is that you have to have some rigor. Always the same commonplaces: working with fresh products, working with seasonal products. I never tire of this. Never.

Seasonal cooking, which was defined in its day as the cooking where you buy each day what’s best and serve it to your customers; being able to say the next day: last night ended with the fridge almost empty. What’s going to come in this morning -- what is the best -- is for the customer. And tomorrow, we’ll again buy what’s best. And so on. And make this effort -- the effort of emptying your cold storage room of everything perishable.

The longer you keep the corpses in the refrigerator the more they lose. They don’t get any better. Well, some do, from being aged a bit. But we know that a shrimp, a shrimp just caught, is not the same next day. And all this time that we could save to avoid ingredient deterioration is time that the cook must know how to master. This is very difficult. It requires a major effort. Because we don’t always achieve it. We have to be self-critical. This self-criticism is what helps us get better every day. That’s what we want, but can’t reach. As the song, we do what we don’t want. And I have the feeling that too many times we do what we don’t want. And I use the plural in here, too.

Pedro: What kind of people come to Can Fabes? Yesterday (Friday night) we heard English all around, French . . .

Santi: It depends. Today (Saturday at lunch) if you take a look around there are people from the country. I don’t know why, all over Spain I’d say, people like lunch better than dinner. People party more at midday than at night. The problem is that we dine too late: if you start dining at seven, you finish by ten and go to bed at midnight. If you start dining at eleven, you finish at two thirty and that’s terrible. That hourly dysfunction makes it so that we have one kind of public at lunch and another at dinner.

We have 35% tourists from around the world. Gastro-tourists, I mean. Something between 15 and 20% from other regions of Spain, and the rest are Catalonians.

Pedro: So, almost half of your customers come from Catalonia?

Santi: Yes, almost 50% are Catalonians. Years ago, the percentage was even higher. But it was higher because I served fewer meals. I’ve increased the volume of international customers and of customers from other regions in Spain while maintaining the number of local customers. This hasn’t been from one day to the next -- it has taken several years. The number of customers sharply increased thanks to the rise of Barcelona after the Olympics.

Pedro: Did the Olympics have an effect on the restaurant?

Santi: Yes, they were terrible. Everybody stayed in Barcelona. But after the Games, Barcelona became a global tourist destination. People with culinary interest, when they decide to visit Barcelona, they look to the map, they consult the guide, they see an establishment 50 kilometers away, and they travel to it.

This is the first of three parts.


Pedro Espinosa (aka pedro) is an eGullet Society manager, and host of the Spain and Portugal forums.

Pedro wishes to thank Víctor de la Serna (vserna), Steven Shaw and Andy Lynes for their help with this interview.

Photographs copyright 2005 Can Fabes Gastronomic Leisure Center.


#2 Pan

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 02:02 PM

Great interview; fascinating! Chef Santamaria is very eloquent.

This seems to show a difference of philosophy with Adria' and the Molecular Gastronomy movement:

We start from a product in its purest state, and what I like to do with this product in its purest state is adapt it to my preferences and adapt it to enable it to transmit pleasure, without betraying what in essence is the product –- so that you can recognize what you’re eating, so that you don’t have to go through an intellectual exercise each time you eat. I don’t think every time you eat you should have to wonder what you’re eating. There’s an instinctive point, a natural point. There are too many traffic lights, too many zebra crossings in life. Should you be in this mood when you go to a restaurant?


But later, he also makes clear that he is open to using any cooking technique:

You should be open to anything. What happens is that you have to have some rigor. Always the same commonplaces: working with fresh products, working with seasonal products.


So is he open to the possibility of using foams and airs, as long as he's using fresh, seasonal products and it's easy for the customer to recognize their contents?

Another thought that comes to mind is that it's notable if Chef Santamaria doesn't use any frozen or ice-packed fish or seafood that wasn't caught the same day it's cooked. Is it really true that he never uses any shrimp that was caught the previous day? It seems more likely to me that the fish and seafood he uses was brought into port early the same morning on ships that may have been out to sea for a few days, but a bit of clarification would be welcome.

I look forward to the second installment, and congratulations to Pedro and everyone involved in making this interview and this article possible.

#3 Bux

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 03:53 PM

Great interview; fascinating! Chef Santamaria is very eloquent.

This seems to show a difference of philosophy with Adria' and the Molecular Gastronomy movement:. . . .

View Post

I thnk it's fair to say that he's bending over backwards not just to disassociate himself from Adrià who's captured the attention of the media, particularly the English speaking media, but to be critical of a certain technical direction in New Spanish Cooking. On the other hand, there's nothing reactionary about his food, nor is there a sense of being stuck in the past, or stuck in any mode other than insisting on top quality raw materials. He's intent on providing a superior experience for the diner and one that he's not likely to find at home.

Not only does he prefer unprocessed products, but he prefers wild foods rather than those grown on farms. Naturally that leads to using a lot of local seafood. My guess is that fresh wild unfrozen local shell fish is far more available in Catalunya than in most American markets. I wouldn't know if he never uses frozen fish.
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#4 edsel

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 06:49 PM

Great interview; fascinating! Chef Santamaria is very eloquent.

This seems to show a difference of philosophy with Adrià and the Molecular Gastronomy movement:. . . . View Post

I thnk it's fair to say that he's bending over backwards not just to disassociate himself from Adrià who's captured the attention of the media, particularly the English speaking media, but to be critical of a certain technical direction in New Spanish Cooking. View Post

I wonder if Santamaría is really attempting to dissociate himself from Adrià, rather than simply distinguish his personal style?...
I guess I don't detect so much a sense of disapproval of the "radical" cuisine, but maybe I'm being dense. :wink:
Probably the most telling quote is this:

[interrupting] No. That’s the thing. Here is one of the beautiful aspects of cooking. Why do restaurants, including ours, have to change the menu so frequently? I mean, when you find a really good dish, why do you have to change it? Why novelty just for the sake of novelty? Why are we denying a customer who has enjoyed a given dish the possibility of having it again? Because there’s no capability of discovery? I don’t think so. This is like refusing to listen to a given piece of music. When you like something, you want to feel it again: a folk singer, whatever . . . Cooking is the same. You want to enjoy those emotions again.

So Adrià is focused on constantly surprising his diners, while Santamaría prefers to focus on refining a more familiar theme. I don't see these viewpoints as being in conflict - they're simply different.

I think it's a mistake to assume that Adrià is disconnected from tradition. I think it's equally unfair to assume that Santamaría rejects innovation out of hand.

Pedro, thanks for a very engaging interview - I look forward to the rest of the series.

#5 pedro

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 08:46 AM

Pan, I have a hard time imagining Santi using frozen fish. Nonetheless, as Iñaki Camba (chef and co-owner of Arce, which recently appeared in the NYT) pointed out, there are some fishes (i.e. sole) which get better after a short period of aging (3-5 days). They release a large amount of sea water during this period, sea water that would be the only taste they would have if eat them the same day they were caught.

The use of technique in Santi's cuisine is a tough subject. For instance, in one of his signature dishes, pork jowl with caviar over a parmentier of potato, the parmentier could be qualified as a foam, being as lighter as any parmentier could get, but I'm quite sure he didn't use any syphon to produce the parmentier.

Santi has firm views on what dining should be and the role that technique has to play in cooking (a supporting one). He's not alone in looking at some of the avant-garde wannabes with criticism: other chefs and critics in the country question the foundation of this style which is becoming the mainstream among a certain segment of restaurants.

Stay tuned for the next two parts.
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#6 Bux

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 12:05 PM

Edsel, I don't have any evidence to contradict your reading of Santi's comments. It may well be that I'm projecting how I might feel if I were as accomplished a chef as Santi and if my philosophies and talents seemed to be playing second fiddle to a flashier style in the press.

I certainly wouldn't suggest that Adrià was not connected to tradition or that Santi was any less disconnected. They are both driven by their philosophies and neither is content to serve just a better version of what one might eat in a typical Catalan house, but both are heavily rooted in Catalan culture, cuisine and raw products. Santi's food is less "technical" in the sense I find people using the word "technical" today, although his techniques are no less demanding. I don't believe that chefs are best appreciated in comparison with other chefs, but on their own merit. Nevertheless I think we, as humans, have a need to make these comparisons in an effort to understand because nothing exists in a vacuum. Knowing one chef makes it easier for me to appreciate another chef, without necessarily comparing the two.
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#7 edsel

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 03:49 PM

Perhaps we've all been reading too much into chef Santamaría's statements. Is this a minor case of professional jealousy due to the admittedly extraordinary amount of attention drawn by Adrià and the other leading-edge chefs? In reviewing docsconz' report on his experience at el Raco de Can Fabes, I'm struck by how challenging, inventive, and "modern" the dishes are. Santamaría uses sous-vide techniques, which certainly indicates that he's no culinary Luddite.

Clearly, this is not the application of an industrial method to a craftsman cooking. This is to stay in the craftsman stage. Because each day, each dish is a piece. In every dish you have a tremendous margin of error. That’s why it requires you to be in the kitchen everyday, correcting constantly: a bit more salt, cooked a bit more, a bit less . . . We’re not automatons, we’re orchestra conductors who have a whole ensemble that has to sound how the conductor feels. To me, when the conductor is an automaton, the music -- or the cooking -- disappears. It becomes this music that bothers us so much with things that have nothing to do with the instrument or with the magic of the cooking point, of the control of fire, of cold, of knowing how to season well.

Somehow, I can't imagine that Adrià (or Blumenthal, Dufresne, Achatz, Roca, Andrés...) would disagree. It all comes down to execution. And perhaps the press has been overly obsessed with the "wow" factor of high-tech gadgetry. Since I've never dined at Can Fabes or el bulli, I'm hardly in a position to compare the experience. Frankly, I don't care if chef Santamaría's techniques would be at home in Ferdinand and Isabella's court, while Adrià employs tech straight out of science fiction. They're both on top of their game, and Spain has become a culinary destination of the first order.

#8 vserna

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 09:49 AM

Very interesting stuff. Let's not fool ourselves: Santi and Ferran are deeply at odds over the basics of modern cuisine. Ferran has left Catalan roots way behind, as a dim memory, while he explores galactic cookery. Santi insists that we have to go back to our roots every day when we create something new - so as not to interrupt a gustatory link that reaches way back into the origins of our culture. They are the yin and the yang of modern cuisine in Spain - perhaps in the world - today. And amongst our young chefs we find those who have chosen the Adrià path (Andoni Luis Aduriz, for instance) and those who idolize Santamaria (Mario Sandoval, for one).

This is like bullfighting at the time of Joselito and Belmonte: no cultural phenomenon in Spain is ever at its peak until we have two contrasting, even opposing figures which we can either follow or detest.

Edited by vserna, 26 July 2005 - 09:58 AM.

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#9 docsconz

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 10:46 AM

From my point of view I hope and expect to detest neither. I don't find their approaches to be mutually exclusive. I loved Santamaria's cooking and am excited to soon be visiting El Bulli. What is important to me is great food. It is so much the better if it is served with imagination, wit and style. I found that to be the case at Can Fabes and certainly expect that at El Bulli. Perhaps if I were cooking and invested in a certain style I might be drawn more towards one than the other. Fortunately, I am just dining. :biggrin:
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#10 Jason Perlow

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 10:54 AM

Very interesting stuff. Let's not fool ourselves: Santi and Ferran are deeply at odds over the basics of modern cuisine. Ferran has left Catalan roots way behind, as a dim memory, while he explores galactic cookery. Santi insists that we have to go back to our roots every day when we create something new - so as not to interrupt a gustatory link that reaches way back into the origins of our culture. They are the yin and the yang of modern cuisine in Spain - perhaps in the world - today. And amongst our young chefs we find those who have chosen the Adrià path (Andoni Luis Aduriz, for instance) and those who idolize Santamaria (Mario Sandoval, for one).

This is like bullfighting at the time of Joselito and Belmonte: no cultural phenomenon in Spain is ever at its peak until we have two contrasting, even opposing figures which we can either follow or detest.

View Post


So you're saying Ferran is the Sith Master and Santi is Yoda?
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#11 pedro

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 03:20 PM

From a dining perspective, I'd say they're not mutually exclusive if your mind is open enough.

The problem with going the Adrià way is that besides the enormous amount of talent that is required no matter which route you choose, you require lots of other resources. To name just one: time. My impression is that Adrià's is riskier precisely for that; the environment in which he and his team produce their creations is overlooked.
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#12 vserna

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 03:34 PM

So you're saying Ferran is the Sith Master and Santi is Yoda?

View Post

Indeed, very well put, Jason. :cool:

But as John and Pedro rightly point out, a diner can go with both. More difficult in Star Wars...

Then again, there were also those bullfighting fans who went with Joselito and Belmonte...
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#13 Andy Lynes

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 04:11 AM

I've enjoyed this interview immensely. Its fascinating to read the thoughts of a chef who thinks so deeply about what he does. Passion is word that is often used about and by chefs, but I don't think I have seen it more appropriately applied than here.

#14 Mar Calpena

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 01:14 AM

Ferran has left Catalan roots way behind, as a dim memory, while he explores galactic cookery.

View Post



Funnily enough, Ferran Adria has stated in interviews (you can check this one written by... er... me! in El Bulli's webapge) he'd like to set up a traditional cuisine restaurant because he says it's impossible to eat dishes like a fricandó the way they were cooked one century ago.

Edited by Mar Calpena, 29 July 2005 - 01:15 AM.

Middlebrow Catalan gastronomy??????
http://baixagastronomia.blogspot.com/

#15 Boris_A

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Posted 29 July 2005 - 03:34 AM

he'd [Adrià] like to set up a traditional cuisine restaurant because he says it's impossible to eat dishes like a fricandó the way they were cooked one century ago.

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Which leads to the question whether it's possible to cook dishes the way they were cooked one century ago. "Impossible" would be the answer of Heraklit.
Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.