Michael J. Edelman
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Ferran Adria's El Bulli was either the restaurant that saved haute cuisine or destroyed it, depending on your point of view. To his critics, Adria was "that foam guy" who replaced tradition with a lot of (literal) smoke and mirrors, and played games and disrespected the great traditions. To his supporters, Adria reinvented fine dining and the concept of food itself, alternately surprising, shocking, and delighting diners with a range of experiences, flavors, and sensations that went far beyond what any chef had done in the past. Whatever your opinion of Adria and El Bulli, it's clear he changed the face of fine dining forever.
I've never dined at El Bulli, or at any of the imitators and followers that hanse sprung up in Adria's wake, nor, probably, will I ever; spending $325-500 on wine and food is simply not in my budget, or even in my notion of what dining should cost. Still, there's a certain fascination and curiosity about what Adria was trying too accomplish with El Bulli, and where his notions of this new, deconstructed cuisine were coming from. Author Lisa Abend is a good reporter, and a good writer, who knows the restaurant business and who has produced a very interesting and very readable book about the people behind El Bulli, the food, and the ideas behind the food. Her narrative is divided into chapters by month, and along with each month is a particular concept she explores- achievement, discipleship, risk, etc.
There's a lot of material on Adria's approach, and what he is (or was) trying to do. It's not about technique, or special effects, he argues, but about flavor. His use of products like xanathan gum that are usually found in processed food was not to create a special effect, but to create textures without diluting flavor. Using vegetable gum rather than flour or cornstarch to thicken a sauce mean being able to create a sauce that had more pure flavor of the ingredients, undiluted by a large volume of starch. The startlingly novel techniques that trade Adria and el Bulli the target of attacks by many traditionalists were only a means to a single end: A purer, more intense flavor that represented fresh ingredients.
The real focus of this book, though, in on the people- Adria and his staff of experienced chefs and apprentices, each of whom have a somewhat different reason for being there and who have taken a different route to get there. Adria's history is very traditional: Long apprenticeships in traditional kitchens, making sauces, peeling vegetables. HIs staff are of a new breed who expect to rise much faster in the business and perhaps have their own restaurant (and fame) at an age where Adria was still learning to make a proper consommé. Some of the staff- all who come with a lot of experience, and most of whom are doing unpaid apprenticeships- are looking to learn Adria's techniques. Some are looking to understand his philosophy. And some are looking for a certificate that will pave the way to owning their own restaurants. There's a lot of competition to see who gets recognized, and whose ideas might just possibly make it to the menu.
This is a good read for foodies, as you might expect, but equally interesting as a study in personalities working together, and the human dramas that unfold.