Adria in person

Ferran Adria, the pioneering Spanish chef, likes to stir things up. Ferran Adria, the pioneering Spanish chef, likes to stir things up. (christopher smith for the new york times)
By Devra First
Globe Staff / December 3, 2008
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Ferran Adria is chef at the Catalan restaurant elBulli, considered by many the best in the world. Famed for pioneering foams and other techniques often referred to as "molecular gastronomy" - guests dine on the likes of gelled olive spheres and white asparagus with virgin olive oil capsules and lemon marshmallows - he is also controversial for his use of chemicals in cooking. Adria has a new book out, "A Day at elBulli."

Q. How much of what you do is cooking, how much science, and how much theater or art?

A. Cooking is always science, and that's always been the case. For example, mayonnaise. Making it is a chemical process, and it's been around for centuries. Now, to regard cooking cuisine as an artistic expression, that's a much more complex issue. Cooking is always science, and can sometimes be art.

Q. You began making foams, and now everyone makes foams, not always to the benefit of the dish. Do you ever feel like you created a monster?

A. It's always been like that. You also find a lot of very bad omelets around. And lots of terrible pizzas.

Q. You make no money directly from the restaurant. Why have you designed it this way? Populism?

A. It's about not being a hypocrite. I'm passionate about my profession, my cuisine, and I want to expose the population to it as much as I can. I wouldn't charge $1,000 for dinner.

Q. If someone wants to do an apprenticeship at elBulli, how difficult is it?

A. We receive about 6,000 requests but can only take 20 people, so it's not an easy process. It's probably even more difficult than getting a reservation. But it's a question of trying. People might also be interested in the [elBulli-affiliated] Alicia Foundation, which aims to promote education and awareness with regards to nutrition and food.

Q. What parts of the world are you looking to for inspiration? What are you excited about now?

A. The Japanese sentiment about food, I see that as the third revolution in cuisine. Not just sushi and sashimi. Kaiseki cuisine. It's something very few people in the world know about.

Q. What were the first two revolutions?

A. No. 1 was nouvelle cuisine. The second was avant-garde Spanish cuisine.

Q. You have a rare night off. What do you eat for dinner?

A. We go out as much as possible. It's much more fun.

FERRAN ADRIA On Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., the Catalan chef speaks about the connections between food and science at Harvard in Jefferson Hall. Seating is first come, first served.

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