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Voyage into Creativity

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gallery_29805_3926_21996.jpgBy John Sconzo

The Daily Gullet is proud to present this, the first in a multi-part, front-row report on the recent "Spain and the World Table" conference. Watch for subsequent installments in this topic.

In his introduction of Ferran Adria, Thomas Keller -- perhaps the most celebrated American chef ever -- described four elements that go into making a great chef. The chef must be aware. Once aware of one’s culinary and other surroundings that chef can then be inspired, which leads to the ability to interpret those surroundings. But a great chef does not stop there. Instead, the great chef continues to evolve. Ferran Adria, perhaps more than any other chef who has ever lived, is the embodiment of those four elements.

The moment that Ferran Adria strode towards Thomas Keller on the stage at the CIA/Greystone’s World of Flavors’ “Spain and the World Table” Conference was electric -- as if a giant Van de Graf generator had been turned on. The feeling didn’t subside when Adria took the stage from Keller; it only became more pronounced as the packed crowd rose to its feet, raining applause, admiration and love on the Spanish master. gallery_29805_3926_25791.jpgAdria accepted the response with aplomb, and gave it right back to the audience -- and to his fellow Spanish cocineros, who were standing off to the side. He brought each one up to join him on the stage for a rousing thank-you to the conference organizers, sponsors and participants. Once this emotional release subsided, Adria got down to what everyone had been waiting for -- his discussion and demonstration.

Ferran Adria, with eyes sparkling like the finest cava, began speaking Spanish in a voice as gravelly as the beaches of the Costa Brava, while Conference Chairman Jose Andres translated. The crowd, hushed and straining for every word, moved forward in their seats as Adria explained El Bulli and himself, with a lesson in recent culinary history thrown in. Ferran explained that El Bulli is not a business. While offshoots of El Bulli are operated on a for-profit basis, the restaurant runs without profit as a primary motivation. For example, he said, the greatest difficulty they have is distributing reservations. Given the extraordinary demand and the severely limited supply, he explained that they could simply raise the price of a meal to the point where the supply and demand met. Indeed, the price of a meal at El Bulli is in itself quite reasonable given the stature of the restaurant and well within means of most motivated diners should they be able to get there, and this is how Adria prefers it. He stated that he was not interested in cooking solely for those with the most money. He prefers to work for people with a true interest in exploring the limits of cooking with him. To this end he showed a short film depicting “A Day in the Life . . .” of El Bulli set to the Beatles’ song of the same name. The film showed a couple’s response to the experience.

Ferran’s voyage into creativity began with a visit to Jacques Maxima at Le Chanticleer Restaurant in Nice, France. He learned from Maxima that to be creative is not to copy. This idea changed his entire approach to cooking -- from making classic cuisine to making his own. Aware of elaborate books of French cuisine, Adria resolved to catalogue his work, the results of which are the richly detailed El Bulli books, published by period. These books, as wonderful as they are, are huge and extremely expensive. During his presentation, Adria announced -- and demonstrated -- that the individual dishes photographed and described in a chronology within each book are all now available online at elbulli.com.

He finished the philosophical discussion by talking about the general style of haute cuisine that he and others are engaged in. While others have coined the term “molecular gastronomy” to highlight the scientific component of the creativity involved, Adria rejected it, saying that all cooking is molecular: most of his techniques are in fact rather simple and don’t employ radical new technology. Most of the technology that they do use has been around for some time; they have simply adapted it to their own purposes. Nevertheless, he applauds contributions to gastronomy from Harold McGee and other food scientists, and welcomes their collaboration in the kitchen. He has yet to find a term that describes the movement: as of now, he feels that there really is no good name for this style of cooking.

gallery_29805_3926_24966.jpgMore than any other single thing, Ferran Adria is known for the use of “foams” in cooking. While he is proud of his achievements with foams, he stressed that while appropriate in some circumstances, the real utility of foams is limited. He bemoans their ubiquity -- and wishes to not be blamed for others’ poor deployment of the concept. In the course of describing this and other techniques, Adria made a point of stating that using them should not be inferred as copying. Techniques and concepts are to be used and shared. He invited everyone to learn and harness whatever they found interesting, and to employ it in to their own pursuits.

Another set of techniques discussed and demonstrated by the master and his assistant, Rafa Morales from Hacienda Benazuza, included three types of spherification. These included the use of calcium chloride (CaCl) and sodium alginate as well as the converse, and exploration of a new agent, gluconodeltalactone. The original combinations of alginate into CaCl for “caviar” production, and CaCl into alginate for larger “spheres” have chemistry-related limits as to what can be sphericized. In private correspondence, Harold McGee explained to me that
. . . gluconodeltalactone is a substance that is water soluble and slowly breaks down into gluconic acid, thus gradually lowering the pH of whatever it's added to. The alginates can form gels both by crosslinking with calcium, or by acidification, which neutralizes the charge on the alginate chains and thus encourages them to hydrogen-bond to each other. So gradual acidification would gradually gel an alginate solution in the absence of calcium.
Adria described encapsulating a mussel in its own juice. While this would make the dish technically an aspic, unlike conventional aspics it remains a liquid. Adria said that though gluconodeltalactone is very new, and they are just beginning to get a handle on it, he is very excited by it. gallery_29805_3926_10936.jpgHe also demonstrated a machine for spherification on a larger scale than they had originally been able to do, as well as liquid nitrogen and freeze-drying (lyophilization) techniques. At the conclusion of his demonstration -- and thus the Conference -- the audience once again awarded him a standing ovation.

While Adria’s appearance was the culmination of the conference, the energy it produced was not just because of his stature in the world of gastronomy -- it was also due to the excitement generated by the conference that preceded it. If there had previously been any doubt, Thomas Keller’s welcome of Adria was a clarion: Spanish cuisine has landed on North American shores and is finding a niche in the North American psyche. Spanish cuisine -- in its multifaceted, delicious entirety -- lives here, too.

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John M. Sconzo, M.D., aka docsconz, is an anesthesiologist practicing in upstate New York. He grew up in Brooklyn in an Italian-American home, in which food was an important component of family life. It still is. His passions include good food, wine and travel. John's gastronomic interests in upstate northeastern New York involve finding top-notch local producers of ingredients and those who use them well. A dedicated amateur, John has no plans to ditch his current career for one in the food industry. Host, New York.

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Doc,

Not many people in any business including chefs would be as open with "trade secrets" as Chef Adria is. He is an innovator not only for what he has created but for the subsequent waves of creativity that ripple out from Roses. He does not take enough credit for his business acumen. To see the development of the El Bulli brand even over the last few years is remarkable. When will you post your pictures from the conference...I am sure you have quite a collection.

Best,

Molto E


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Great report, 'doc!

Had to be unreal!!

Thank you!!!


Edited by tan319 (log)

2317/5000

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Doc,

        Not many people in any business including chefs would be as open with "trade secrets" as Chef Adria is. He is an innovator not only for what he has created but for the subsequent waves of creativity that ripple out from Roses. He does not take enough credit for his business acumen. To see the development of the El Bulli brand even over the last few years is remarkable. When will you post your pictures from the conference...I am sure you have quite a collection.

Best,

Molto E

An installment will be added every few days and will have some photos with it. Depending on the direction of the discussion and time I may add additional photos.

You are right about Ferran and his team. They are incredible innovators in everything they do. In addition they always seem to do it with class. IMO, they are the ultimate culinary professionals.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Thanks for a great report! Gracias amigo

Thank you for your role in making the conference the incredible success that it was!


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Great report, 'doc!

Had to be unreal!!

Thank you!!!

Thanks, Ted. Like the Star Chefs ICC, I felt like a kid in a candy store again. I found the focus of the two conferences sufficiently different to complement each other. Now someday, maybe I'll get to Madrid Fusion or Identita Golosa - not 2007 though!


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to write about this event. Your excitement is contagious!

Reading about this conference, and reading what goes on at "Ideas in Food", maybe the real revolution that is taking place is the willingness to share and the generosity of these chefs. It really is inspiring.

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Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to write about this event. Your excitement is contagious!

Reading about this conference, and reading what goes on at "Ideas in Food", maybe the real revolution that is taking place is the willingness to share and the generosity of these chefs. It really is inspiring.

Thanks for reading and commenting, Judith.

I agree that the willingness to share techniques and concepts is a noble one. It is also necessary for this movement to grow and to be something more than a mere curiosity. Adria and others like Alex Talbott and Aki Kamozawa of Ideas in Food freely share their ideas and engage in discussion with all interested parties. This is truly wonderful and something that we all benefit from. One thing that their meticulous documentation accomplishes is that it clearly leaves an account of what they have done and when, so while they are sharing their ideas it becomes more difficult for someone else to claim them as their own. Proper attribution is important in this context and allows for the free flow of these ideas.

Adria is happy if anyone else feels interested enough to use the techniques and concepts that he and his team have introduced so long as those techniques and concepts arre not claimed as having originated elsewhere. The unique dishes produced with the help of those techniques and concepts clearly belong to the creativity of the one who made them and not to the originator of the techniques and concepts. I believe that this is a critical point for Adria. Technique and concept are important, but the most important element is how they are employed and what the final product is.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Fantastic report. Looking forward to the rest of the installments. Did they happen to mention the dates and theme/topic for next year's conference?


Mark A. Bauman

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Fantastic report. Looking forward to the rest of the installments. Did they happen to mention the dates and theme/topic for next year's conference?

Thanks Mark. more is on the way. To answer your question, next year's conference will be Nov. 1-3 on "The Rise of Asia." It should be outstanding. Unfortunately for me, I will be unable to attend.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Hello John! What an excellent review of what must have been a fabulously interesting visit. I am one of those people trying to get reservations to El Bulli… unavailable in all of 2007…

As you know, I am a traditionalist when it comes to cooking, but my background includes influence from Jacques Maximin as well, going back to when I worked with Joachim Splichal, another Maximin protégé and culinary wizard in his own right, for a short year’s stint in the mid 80s. These are two men who can literally pull inspiration from the air.

Chefs in Italy are trying to emulate this creativity, but few have arrived. Two that I have experienced are Massimo Bottura in Modena (Osteria Francescana) and Davide Scabin in Torino (Combal Zero). Fantasy and precision in the kitchen, dishes truly inspired by local ingredients and some amazing imagination...

You wrote, “described four elements that go into making a great chef. The chef must be aware. Once aware of one’s culinary and other surroundings that chef can then be inspired, which leads to the ability to interpret those surroundings. But a great chef does not stop there. Instead, the great chef continues to evolve. Ferran Adria, perhaps more than any other chef who has ever lived, is the embodiment of those four elements.”

I think this is very interesting, and I assume that ‘surroundings’ includes local and seasonal ingredients. Scabin also has list of what he wants his patrons to experience with his food:

1) Taste

2) Pleasure

3) Emotion

4) Experience

5) Remembrance

While I am a bit nervous about eating something called gluconodeltalactone, I am fascinated by the depth of thought going on in these kitchens.


Edited by pamela in tuscany (log)

Pamela Sheldon Johns

Italian Food Artisans

www.FoodArtisans.com

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Hi Pamela, I am glad that you have enjoyed this so far. While something called gluconodeltalactone does indeed sound intimidating, I wouldn't be too put off by it or other agents such as Xanthum gum, Calcium Chloride, methylcellulose, etc. These are scientific names for elements found in many "natural" foods that are eaten every day. They are not "designed" by chemists as are certain pharmaceutical agents. The elements are extracted and applied for specific purposes. Most of us would have no trouble adding specific elements for taste even if we don't know the scientific names of the elements. This is really no different, except that the end result is not specifically taste, though equally as important to the perception and reception of a dish.

Your comments on Italy are fascinating. I have had the pleasure of dining at Bottura's restaurant when in Modena back in 2003. He had literally just returned from a World of Flavors Conference that focused on the Mediterranean. Though Bottura spent time working at El Bulli before he opened his restaurant, I remember the food there at the time to be creative but not overtly "scientific." He used local ingredients in new ways and did riffs on traditional dishes. I did enjoy that meal very much and would love to return to see how he has evoled in his cooking.

As for Davide Scabin, while I have not yet visited his restaurant, Combal.0 in Torino, it is very high on my list of restaurants that I would love to get to. I had the pleasure of meeting him and spending a little time with him back in September in NYC. He is an extremely thoughtful, intelligent and fun human being. I can only imagine his food being the same.

An interesting sidenote since you brought up the subject of Italy, is that many of the Spaniards are very much aware of having been in the shadow of Italy, especially as regards attitudes towards agricultural products like olive oil, wine, vinegar, seafood, rice, etc. and even traditional dishes such as canneloni and even the tortilla Espanola, a version of which I ate regularly growing up with a Campanian mother. While top quality Spanish ingredients are indeed second to none, I found this attitude a bit defensive and probably the result of returning to the game late and having to play "catch-up."


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Pamela, you also touched on the influence of Jacques Maximin on Ferran Adria and others including ultimately yourself. Funny, but prior to Adria's talk I was not even aware of Maximin let alone his influence. That just points out my own ignorance and inexperience and I consider myself someone who is into history! What struck me at the conference from listening to Ferran Adria both in the talk/demo written about above and his small demo, is how into culinary history he is. Like any good historian, he does not simply no dates and who did what. He understands very well the relationships and complex interweaving of history, in this case culinary history. To me this emphasizes that he is not a person just doing things "willy-nilly" like "a mad scientist" as he has so often been described. Adria is very much aware of what he is doing and why. From what I can see there is nothing "mad" about him at all.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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John---

El Bulli is far out of my realm---I will never sit and savor on that hallowed ground, but your telling makes it of the utmost interest. The ability to convey an experience is a lovely gift, and I'm sure that the majority of the readers will gain their insight from the written word, not from the tastes and aromas and atmosphere and the plated landscapes of the ACTUAL.

Your descriptions of the rich history being made in those kitchens are outstanding, and I'm looking forward to the next chapter.

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I think this is very interesting, and I assume that ‘surroundings’ includes local and seasonal ingredients. Scabin also has list of what he wants his patrons to experience with his food:

1)  Taste

2)  Pleasure

3)  Emotion

4)  Experience

5)  Remembrance

That is certainly an inspiring list. Or something to aspire to.


Edited by hathor (log)

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Voyage into Creativity, part two

Day One

gallery_29805_3926_24660.jpgBy John Sconzo

American interest in Spanish cuisine has grown exponentially in the last two decades. Reams of press concerning the rapid growth and incredible success of Spanish “alta cocina” have certainly contributed to and reflected this phenomenon -- most notably that covering the person and work of Ferran Adria and the team at El Bulli in Roses, Catalunya, and chefs like Juan Marie Arzak in the Basque country. While Spanish “alta cocina” has gained esteem in the United States, its success has opened the door for the traditional cuisines of Spain. “Spain and the World Table,” the latest of the annual World of Flavors Conferences held each November at CIA/Greystone in St. Helena, California, was convened to explore, demonstrate and highlight the full range of this extraordinary cuisine.

Not long ago, few in the United States had had authentic paella -- or even knew what it was -- yet it was one of the few dishes that people in the U.S. would have identified as “Spanish.” Another would have been gazpacho. Even for those who did understand and appreciate these and other dishes, difficulty in sourcing quality Spanish ingredients such as pimenton, piquillo peppers, and Spanish jamones amongst others important to the cuisine made it near impossible to make or eat many true Spanish flavors. gallery_29805_3926_3040.jpgFortunately, that is changing; all of those ingredients and many more are now available at excellent quality in the States. So while dishes might not be quite the same as they are inside Spain, they can be made to reflect the style, spirit and sabor of their original counterparts: now, the flavors of Spain can enliven the cooking of America.

Today Spain is known as a hotbed of culinary innovation and creativity, but it's not really a new development. Spain has been an arena of creativity since its earliest days, incorporating Phoenician, Roman and Arab influences and products into its cuisine. The sixteenth century arrival of peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and cacao (amongst other things) from the Americas sparked a revolution -- not just in Spain, but throughout the world. The current pace of creativity and production now seems all the more startling in contrast to the mid-twentieth century years of culinary and cultural repression and homogeneity.

The Conference commenced on Thursday evening with a welcome from Greg Drescher, the Conference organizer, and others. Nancy Harmon Jenkins, the ever-interesting and knowledgeable food writer and cookbook author, followed with a discussion on Spain and its Culinary Traditions, elucidating the current allure of. Spanish cuisine:

We Americans have been enamored of French cuisine, with its dazzling kitchen techniques, since the days of Thomas Jefferson, if not even well before; more recently we have come to embrace la cucina italiana with its profound understanding of materia prima, the importance of ingredients. And now, perhaps, with the dawn of a new century, it’s time for us to get to understand, to appreciate, to value la cocina española which brings us both techniques AND ingredients but perhaps more importantly a dazzling sense of risk, experiment, of options previously undreamed of that are still somehow grounded in the reality of Spanish tradition.


As with many culinary traditions, select ingredients are key to those from Spain. Conference Chairman Jose Andres, bounding about the stage, led the presentations that focused on the use of six specific ingredients that have flavored the Spanish table and shaped its contribution to world cooking. The first focus was on olive oil. Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil and is justifiably proud of its quality. gallery_29805_3926_189.jpgMari Carmen Velez, chef from La Sirena Restaurant in Petrer-Alicante created allioli with olive oil, lemon, garlic and salt. Dani Garcia, chef of Calima in Marbella, demonstrated a new approach to using olive oil when he combined it with tomato water and dropped it into liquid nitrogen to make his version of “popcorn”. Though he served this “popcorn” unadorned during the subsequent “World Marketplace,” later in the conference he showed how he uses it as a culinary accent. Jose Andres and Ruben Garcia from THINKfoodGROUP in Washington, D.C. demonstrated the making of a “pil-pil”, the traditional Basque dish using salt cod and olive oil, with the gelatin from the cod itself contributing unctuous viscosity and flavor to the result. Harold McGee was onstage to explain the scientific process for this bit of traditional culinary alchemy.

Maria Jose San Roman, chef-owner of Restaurant Monastrell in Alicante, showed a video on saffron production and spoke on the intricacies of its use. She suggested that saffron be infused for longer periods of time to achieve its fullest and best effects. She is currently in collaboration with the University of Castilla-La Mancha, exploring saffron and its applications.

Other ingredients highlighted included salt, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and wine.

The conference adjourned for exploration of “The World Marketplace”, where wonderful foods and wines from Spain were to be had. Though it was crowded, it was worth wading through to the various booths. Unfortunately, it was difficult to encounter every booth, but it wasn’t long before hunger was sated by the variety of offerings: cochinillo from Candido Lopez Cuerdo, Dani Garcia’s “popcorn,” Carles Gaig’s “Juicy Seafood Rice with Lacquered Hook-Baited Squid,” Spanish cheeses and wines, Paella Valenciana by Rafael Vidal, Miguel Palomo’s fried anchovies, Norm Van Aken’s “Moorish Lamb ‘Espadas’ with Recado Rojo and Lemony Allioli,” Serrano ham hand-carved by Pedro Barba Gil, tapas with uni from Jose Andres, Oriol Balaguer’s “Concept Cake” and many more.

The opening of the Conference provided a lot to digest -- in food and thought. Plenty more would follow.

+ + + + +


All photos by the author.

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I have a few additional photos to add from Day One.

gallery_8158_3954_20347.jpg

Greg Drescher, creator of the World of Flavors International Conference and Festival welcoming all the participants.

gallery_8158_3954_2617.jpg

Mari Carmen Velez of La Sirena in Petrer-Alicante, spain demonstrating the making of an allioli.

gallery_8158_3954_15587.jpg

Conference Chairman Jose Andres pouring olive oil for the making of a "pil-pil" by Ruben Garcia

gallery_8158_3954_1603.jpg

Maria Jose San Roman of Restaurante Monastrell in Alicante, Spain talking about how to use saffron.

gallery_8158_3954_37673.jpg

Video image of workers picking the saffron crocus in Spain shown during Maria Jose San Roman's presentation.

gallery_8158_3954_4088.jpg

Two Spanish chefs who wanted to be at the conference but were unable to attend, Juan Marie Arzak of Restaurant Arzakand Pedro Subijana of Akelare, both in San Sebastien, Spain conveying their regrets and best wishes via video.

gallery_8158_3954_44436.jpg

Dani Garcia of Calima in Marbella, Spain, handing out samples of his "popcorn" at the World Marketplace.

gallery_8158_3954_9381.jpg

Carles Gaig ® of Can Gaig in Barcelona and assistant serving his "Juicy Seafood Rice"

gallery_8158_3954_38069.jpg

Norman Van Aken of Norman's in Florida serving his Lamb "Espadas"

gallery_8158_3954_14949.jpg

Pedro Barba Gil slicing Jamon Serrano

gallery_8158_3954_31353.jpg

Spanish wine importer, Jorge Ordonez selecting wine to pour.

gallery_8158_3954_23380.jpg

Rafael Vidal of Levante in Benissano', Spain making a paella for the evening's festivities.

gallery_8158_3954_1988.jpg

Miguel Palomo, chef-owner of a small bar-restaurant in San Lucar la Mayor in Sevilla, Spain and assistant frying fresh anchovies.

gallery_8158_3954_12471.jpg

Oriol Balaguer from Barcelona standing in behind his desserts.

More photos will follow additional installments.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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John, 

I scrolled ALLLL the way to the top and back, and see not a glove in sight.  Is it because of the occasion, or is there a bias against having those crinkly condoms between the chef and the WORK?

They're a pesky nuisance, and are they not required except in the USA?

Interesting observation. Personally I think that the gloves are no substitute for good hygeine. Even with the gloves, good hygeine is required and may not be present.

Funny thing, I ate at a sushi restaurant last night. some of the sushi preparers had gloves on while others didn't. The cheap gloves used in most food prep areas would drive me crazy. I don't even like wearing high quality surgical gloves for too long and they are relatively comfortable.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Wow, Thank you for the great posts! It really brought back memories of my externship in spain.

I wanted to ask a follow up question about Maria Jose's talk on infusing saffron... What is the new thinking as regards to time/temp of infusion? And did she touch on infusing into oil v. liquids?

Thanks again,

Arturo

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Wow, Thank you for the great posts! It really brought back memories of my externship in spain.

I wanted to ask a follow up question about Maria Jose's talk on infusing saffron... What is the new thinking as regards to time/temp of infusion? And did she touch on infusing into oil v. liquids?

Thanks again,

Arturo

Hi Arturo, thanks for your attention. I don't recall all the details of her talk, but one thing that does stand out in my memory was that she thinks saffron should be infused in liquid for longer periods of time than most people do so as to get the full flavor. I do not recall her talking about infusing into oil, though I would be surprised if she hasn't been doing that or at least looking into it. She is considered, at least by many of those at the conference, as perhaps the world's foremost expert on the culinary uses of saffron.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I'm glad to see all these spanish chefs cooking there and not only the superstars but also the very important keeper of the traditional essences, the ones like Benissano's Rafael Vidal or Alhucemas' Miguel Palomo whos cooking is as important (or even more because there are more people eating paellas and fried fish than foams and nitropopcorns) than the top notch chefs.

Well done Doc.


Rogelio Enríquez aka "Rogelio"

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I'm glad to see all these spanish chefs cooking there and not only the superstars but also the very important keeper of the traditional essences, the ones like Benissano's Rafael Vidal or Alhucemas' Miguel Palomo whos cooking is as important (or even more because there are more people eating paellas and fried fish than foams and nitropopcorns) than the top notch chefs.

Well done Doc.

Thank you, Rogelio. Not only were they cooking, they were afforded the true respect that they deserved. One thing that was apparent at this conference is that their is no real dichotomy between the traditional and the vanguard in the cooking of contemprorary Spain. Not only are they not mutually exclusive, they actually reinforce and support each other. Maybe it is because the vanguardists support the traditions already existant while creating new ones. Of course that is not to say that all cocineros in Spain are one huge happy family exuding respect and good will towards each other. As with any area in life there are personal rivalries and enmities, though none were apparent here. Then again maybe those cocineros didn't come if they were invited.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

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      Broccoli stems after cooking
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      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

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      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

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      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
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      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

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      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
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      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
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