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A Day at elBulli: Ferran Adrià in Conversation with Corby Kummer & Harold McGee

October 10, 2008

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No one can get into elBulli, Ferran Adrià's restaurant on the northeast coast of Spain. But plenty of people certainly try: every year, the restaurant receives over two million requests for only 8,000 seats during the six months it is open. For the other six months, Adrià, who is proud to be called the Salvador Dali of the Kitchen," travels, dreams, and creates at his "food laboratory" in Barcelona, called elBulli Taller, where his team includes a chemist and an industrial designer who also design plates and serving utensils to go with the food. No wonder, as Corby Kummer wrote in The Atlantic, making the twisty two-hour drive from Barcelona for a dinner that ends well into the wee hours has become a notch on every foodie's belt perhaps the notch, given the international derby to get reservations.

For mortals who won' be making the trip soon or who didn't hit the lottery last year in the German contemporary-art exhibition Documenta, which flew two people at random per day to el Bulli to experience "the exhibition" that is dinner at elBulli?Adrià has given the world A Day at elBulli: An Insight into the Ideas, Methods and Creativity of Ferran Adria. This is the first book to take a behind-the-scenes look at the restaurant whose sources and methods every ambitious chef wants to know. It shows a full working day from dawn until the last late-night guests leave, using photographs, menus, recipes and diagrams that reveal the restaurant's preparations, food philosophy, and surroundings.

What have the rest of us been missing? What will chefs take from this book that they haven't taken from Adriàs high-profile American disciples, and have those chefs seen Adrià through a glass darkly? Can home cooks without access to Adriàs phantasmagoric funhouse of high-tech equipment and unpronounceable food-industry additives also be influenced by his artistry? Can food in fact be art, and should it be?

Ferran Adrià will be joined by Corby Kummer and Harold McGee for an evening of explanation and exploration of the sublime. Corby Kummer, the author of The Pleasures of Slow Food, will try to bridge the apparent gulf between the current locavore quest for regional authenticity and simplicity with Ferran Adriàs stratospheric journeys, taking as a key clue Adriàs enthusiastic support of the Slow Food movement. And Harold McGee, the author of the classic On Food and Cooking and the New York Times column "The Curious Cook," will try to bridge the gap between Adriàs kitchen and yours, with his incomparable ability to make the abstruse understandable to everyone.


About Ferran Adrià

Ferran Adrià began his culinary career washing dishes at a French restaurant. In 1984, at the age of 22, Adrià joined the kitchen staff of elBulli, a traditional French restaurant. Eighteen months later, he became head chef. He soon began learning techniques from culinary masters and performing culinary experiments based on the use of fresh materials. In line with Adrià's experimental philosophy, he closes elBulli for six months every year to travel in search of new inspiration and perfect new recipes. In response to the question--can food be art? Adrià has said, ?That's for other people to decide. Cooking is cooking. And if it exists alongside art, that's wonderful." 


About Corby Kummer

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic since 1981 has established him as one of the most widely read American food writers. His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995-96 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is the recipient of four James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. Kummer's recent book, The Pleasures of Slow Food, celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. 


About Harold McGee

Harold McGee writes about the science of food and cooking. Twenty years after its first publication, the revised On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen was named best food reference of 2004 by the IACP and the James Beard Foundation. In 2005, Bon App?tit named McGee food writer of the year. In 2008, Time Magazine named him to its annual list of the world?s most influential people. McGee has written for many publications, including The World Book Encyclopedia, Nature, Food & Wine, and Fine Cooking and has appeared on public television's "Diary of a Foodie" and on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," "Fresh Air,"and ?Science Friday." He writes a monthly column, "The Curious Cook," for The New York Times.