Tuesday, July 09, 2013

el Bullie/Ferran Adria and the Art of Food, London

The first day I arrived in London I saw a poster in the Underground for an exhibit on Ferran Adrià and the Art of Food at Somerset House. I grabbed a shot as a reminder.
This was the most exciting, inspiring thing I saw in London.
It made me wish I'd attended a meal at his restaurant el Bullie near Barcelona but that was no easy matter. 
2,000,000 reservations came in for the just the 800 available places each year.
Ferran Adria took over as head chef in 1987. He was deeply influenced by an encounter with French chef Jacques Maximin (head chef at Rech by the way). He learnt to stop copying and to start creating. To developer dishes that were wholly his own, based on his own traditional culinary heritage of Catalonia and later all of Spain. To these he brought elegance, refinement and originality.
This wall charts the dishes created each year of elBullie's existence. It closed in July of 2011. The retrospective showcases the art of cuisine and cuisine as art by taking a behind-the-scenes look at the legendary laboratory and kitchen of the internationally renowned restaurant, which delighted diners in Cala Montjoi, a small bay on the Catalan coast near Roses, for over 50 years.
The Somerset exhibition features in-depth, multimedia displays of each of the essential ingredients that make up the culinary creative mastermind of Ferran Adrià and his team.
How the dishes were conceived and created through all the processes...
Research with handwritten notes and hand-drawn sketches..
Adria's own notebooks included.
He introduced the 'tapas' concept to dining - a series of small plates to bring different tastes to the table always with the goal to create: Surprise, humor, irony, playfulness, touch, sound, smell and sight.
Preparation for each dish was plotted using plasticine models
To serve as a means for quality control of color, portion size and position on the plate, and for the specially-designed utensils used.
Working like a sculpture with maquets/models to finally finished product.
A sample dining table from elBulli
With an overhead video showing how a meal evolved from start to finish.
The last course was this box of chocolates. What can one say?
For 5 years, elBulli was considered the world's finest restaurant and Ferran Adria the world's best chef. It was basically a talent factory...it's therefore no surprise to find that among the chefs of the 6 best restaurants in the world, 5 did training at elBulli. Joan Roca, Grant Achatz, Jose Andres, Massimo Bottura and many others. The language of the new style of cuisine was developed there and is now spoken all over the world.
The founding owners, the Shillings, kept French Bulldogs and referred to them as 'bullies' so i.e. the restaurant's name.
It's hard to put into words how inspiring this exhibit is. If you're in London do NOT miss this exhibit at Somerset House!


  1. OMG Carol - when were you there? I was at the exhibit on Saturday morning! A highlight of my trip for sure! I'm back in Paris now so if you are back and would like to meet for a coffee/ pastry, let me know!

    1. I made it Sunday morning because of the extreme heat
      Sure, I'd love to meetup Mardi

  2. OMG! Any chance it will move to the States? This is one fascinating exhibit!

    1. Anonymous3:11 PM

      I just read while browsing (I'm doing a presentation on El Bulli) and it says that the exhibition is coming to Boston Museum of Science (hope I will be back in time to see it for the second time). Either case, the exhibition will be displayed in the new El Bulli when it opens in 2014 ;). Hope you can experience this!

  3. This is really wonderful. I was impressed that they plotted using plasticine models. I can barely get food on the plate, and have eaten my project more than once before I checked the photos.

    I had a repairman bring his French bully with him. I think that bully might be part human. So much personality, and I am not even a dog person. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

    Thanks for another wonderful trip.

    1. Omg I do exactly the same thing far too often
      Like almost the whole time in London

  4. That display of food creations is overwhelming!
    Amazing amount of creativity...

  5. J'aime la pomme!

    So interesting Carol..
    Plasticine brought back memories..

    The shredded scallops look a treat and a half..
    J'aime la pomme ( 3 vues..) ..the most.

  6. Anonymous10:49 PM

    My daughter told me the French bulldog was a very nice dog---not that smart but with a gentle temperament. She said the puppies go for $2500.
    Luvya and your blog.

    1. Wow well YSLaurant had them successively and obsessively.
      A replacement pup was always waiting in the wings...

  7. Anonymous12:57 AM

    Bonjour. I'm leaving for Paris on Friday and wanted your opinion. Will I look completely ridiculous and out of place if I bring my LV sportster logo bag?

  8. Dear Carol:
    Loved your post on El Bulli. As a Spaniard myself and living in this country for more tan 30 years, I had the chance to go to the restaurant in summer vacations while visiting my sister that lives in the Gothic disctrict of Barcelona. Roses is not far from there, like one hour drive or so. Unfortunately did not have the chance to eat due to the heavy booking agenda they kept. Hoewever, I was invited to a wedding banquette that hired Mr. Adriá for the catering. It was the most incredible food I ever had in my life.
    Second to none. We all miss him so much, not only as a gret chef but also as a genious of creativity.
    So nice to read this in your blog.
    Adios, amiga.

    1. YOU R soooo lucky Maribel!one of the few on the planet.
      He will come back in 2014 with his fondacion

  9. Anonymous11:38 AM

    I was in Barcelona and missed out having dinner there.


    1. I wouldn't feel bad if I was you...With 2,000,000 requests for 800 seats annually.
      There wouldn't be a snowballs chance of snagging a place unless you knew somebody I'd bet

  10. Amazing exhibit, I''d love to see it and am amazed at the detail he went through for each dish. Always love your sketches.

  11. Wow -- I would love this -- loved the food journals and how beautifully things were set up -- and his sweet dog, too!

  12. I was in London last week too and saw the posters for the exhibition, but it was only starting on Friday, and we had to leave Saturday, so I didn't get to see it. Now I did just a little bit, thanks to your wonderful post. It was even more fascinating than I expected. The plasticine models and precise planning are intriguing.

  13. LOVE the apple wc's, Carol! Just ordered by second batch of Kremer paints and they arrived today--thought of you, sweetie! Hope you're enjoying your time in London--sounds like it! Fascinating...xo

  14. "my"
    ordered MY second batch...duh.

    their preparation is much like your sketchbooks! ;))


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