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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Chef Adria to work on haute gastronomy database

Chef Ferran Adria starts work on a database of Western haute gastronomy after El Bulli closes.
December 31, 2012
By: Tan Hsueh Yun
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Chef Adria to work on haute gastronomy database

With his famous restaurant El Bulli now closed, chef Ferran Adria has embarked on something he has called "a project for crazy people".

This would be, described as an "online, curated database", which seeks to map out the last 50 years of Western haute gastronomy. It is expected to be up and running by the end of 2014.

The 50-year-old chef tells Life! in an e-mail interview: "It's an enormous project which aims to align all the information related to the kitchen in an accessible and exhaustive format, which could be a useful tool for teaching as well as developing creativity."

For example, a home cook clicking on "white asparagus" on the site will get recipes, flavour combinations and information about the vegetable, compiled in a neat package. Professionals who want to be updated on the work and discoveries of the El Bulli team can read its daily updates on the site, a collaboration with Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica. "Bull", as the site's "coming soon" page informs you, is a Catalonian word which means "agitation of a liquid that boils".

It is one project by the El Bulli Foundation, a culinary think tank and research and development facility that will be housed in a new building to be built around the site of the restaurant in Roses, Spain.

Glimpses of how it will look comes at the end of El Bulli: The Last Waltz, about the restaurant's last service. It will be shown on Tuesday on SingTel mio TV. The hour-long documentary chronicles that last 50-course meal on July 30 last year, when the restaurant, which opened in 1961, closed.

Chef Adria joined the restaurant in 1984 and became its head chef in 1987. He transformed the place, which once catered to tourists, into an internationally renowned temple of cutting-edge gastronomy. El Bulli garnered three Michelin stars and topped Restaurant magazine's list of 50 of the world's best restaurants five times. Those lucky enough to get reservations paid about €350 (S$566) for multi-course meals that were developed during the six months of each year that the restaurant closed for research and development.

One of the things chef Adria says he is proud of achieving is the freedom to break boundaries in the culinary sphere. He calls it "the feeling of risk... the creativity and the freedom in our office".

That last meal was planned down to the last course, the 1,846th dish developed by the El Bulli team. The number, as viewers will see, is significant and the Peach Melba dessert took one month to develop. To cook that last meal, Adria gathered all the former head chefs of El Bulli and a group of chefs who had done stages or internships at the eatery. The second group includes chefs who now run some of the best restaurants in the world: Rene Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen, Joan Roca of El Celler De Can Roca in Girona, Andoni Aduriz of Mugaritz in Errenteria and Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago.

Chef Adria is seen smiling broadly as the last course is served to the last table. Asked about the most memorable moment that day, he says: "To be honest, there wasn't just one moment in particular. The whole day was magical. The happiness we all felt during the last 24 hours is indescribable.

"El Bulli has transformed into the El Bulli Foundation and for us it is very emotional to celebrate this change together with our companions who have previously shared their passion for cooking with us."

The next day, he adds, "I had a coffee with my mother, sat on the terrace of El Bulli, reading the papers."

Since then he has kept busy, giving lectures at Harvard University, finalising El Bulli's 2005-2011 catalogue of more than 800 recipes and working on BulliPedia. "Honestly, I work more than anything else, but I do what I can to spend more time with my mother and family," says the chef, who is married to Isabel Perez. They do not have children.

Some of his El Bulli team are now working on their own projects. Two of them, Alain Dehavive Tolosa, who was part of its research team, and Pol Perello, its former director of communications, are now in Singapore, working at Spanish restaurant Catalunya at the Fullerton Pavilion in Marina Bay.

He says: "Alain and Pol worked with us on El Bulli because their method of working and their

philosophy is Bulliana (they live and breathe what El Bulli means to diners). I am overjoyed that they are professionals born in El Bulli who later have their own successful and interesting projects."


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