Last Monday, I joined 1,400 foodies that packed the Castro Theatre to listen and learn from one of the most influential chefs in the world — Ferran Adria. Though I’ve read many impressive stories about El Bulli, and even listened to first hand accounts from cooks who’ve interned there, I was delighted that the person who took the stage was humble, funny, energetic, and truly passionate about cooking.
A few days before the event, I picked up a copy of The Family Meal — a collection of recipes he was inspired to write over 3 years. He told how he noticed that despite preparing gourmet meals for the dinner guests, the cooks at El Bulli were not eating well. So he took it upon himself to cook for his crew, to prepare the meals for the chefs, the so-called family meals, that were simple, affordable, and delicious.
He spoke to length about innovating and being creative, theorizing that someone, somewhere must have created the very first omelette. And thanks to that we have enjoyed many varieties of omelettes. But he also believes that being first is not the most important thing, and that many wonderful dishes and fusions have come about by re-introducing something in the right context, at the right time, in the right place.
The crowd cheered when he said that San Francisco was one of 3 cities he would live in — the other 2 being his home in Barcelona, and Sydney. And what did one of the most famous chefs in the world eat while visiting SF? A burrito from La Taqueria in The Mission and dinner at both Range and Mission Chinese Food. Of course he also enjoyed visiting Omnivore Books which hosted the event.
Throughout the evening, he showed videos that illustrated the evolution of El Bulli. From his beginnings as a dishwasher, to becoming head chef, he has always had long term planning in mind. His next project, El Bulli Foundation, is to be a creative think tank and is taking years of planning. That is what I admire about him the most. Planning and patience. The two most important ingredients in a slow cooked meal.