Colman Andrews has written an insightful biography, that only he could have written, about the meteoritic career of Ferran Adria in Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food.
And though few would deny the creativity of this legendary chef, Andrews goes deeper in a tour de force that traces the little known stories in Ferran’s life that have led to his greatest achievements and frustrations.
Unlike a James Beard, Ferran did not discover meaningful cuisine in his mother’s kitchen or like a Julia Child in a great culinary school. Instead, he began in an entrance level job that his father arranged for him through a family friend when he dropped out of school. Ferran learned enough at that kitchen job and others to be able to work as a cook in the home of a Spanish admiral when drafted.
Once discharged from the military, Ferran went looking for another kitchen job – hopefully one that didn’t require too much work so that, like any young man, he could party and drink (ideally with friends and a lovely lady or two).
Then fate intervened. A friend mentioned a small restaurant located above a beach called El Bulli (named for the original German owners’ bulldogs). If the story were a Hollywood script, the next chapters would be all about fame and fortune – how Ferran became tagged with the title “the world’s great chef”.
But Andrews, who spent months interviewing Ferran, listening in his kitchen and observing in his working culinary studio - El Tallers, goes further. He documents how Ferran first discovered new techniques re-thinking traditional kitchen tools and then adopting stabilizers and thickeners long known to pastry chefs into stunning new applications within main courses.
The book ends with a question – what will Ferran do next? Ferran has announced that in 2011 he will take a two year hiatus from his now world famous restaurant. Will he travel, teach, discover more that is new? Return to tradition?
One can only hope that whatever path Ferran chooses to follow, Andrews will be there to write volume number two about this amazing chef’s creativity and courage in kitchen. Bravo and well done!
Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2010