Acclaimed Spanish chef Adria to teach at Harvard

March 24, 2010

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Spanish celebrity chef Ferran Adria, who has concocted treats such as ravioli made from squid and freeze-dried foie gras, is teaming up with Harvard University to offer an undergraduate course in culinary physics at the Ivy League school.

Adria will begin teaching in the fall at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the university said Wednesday. His general education science course will use cooking to introduce students to soft matter physics, which involves the study of suspensions and gels.

Adria has helped bring Spanish cuisine to the world's foodies. He's at the forefront of a cuisine called molecular gastronomy -- a kind of fusion of kitchen and science lab. Ingredients such as agar agar (a type of gel that comes from seaweed), sodium alginate (a powder used to thicken food) and carrageenan (a seaweed extract) are used to mold food in unconventional ways. Foams, warm jellies and liquid nitrogen all play their parts.

The course also will feature lectures by Harvard researchers and 12 celebrity chefs and food experts, including New York chef Wylie Dufresne, whose innovations with molecular gastronomy have earned him a global following. Others include Jose Andres, whose eatery in Washington has helped popularize the Spanish bar food known as tapas in the United States, and chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill, a pricey but understated New York restaurant that champions locally grown produce.

The 47-year-old Adria announced early this year that he's closing his acclaimed elBulli restaurant for a while to tinker with new ideas for molecular cuisine.

The restaurant, which boasts the highest rating of three stars in the Michelin guide, a mark of exceptional cuisine, will close to the public in 2012 and 2013 but will continue to serve as a research lab. It will reopen in 2014.

elBulli, in Gerona province, a few hours north of Barcelona, was voted the world's best restaurant last year by the British magazine Restaurant. It was the fourth straight year it received that honor.

Adria says his goal is to break the molds that determine what food should look or feel like.