Last night legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adrià of the now-shuttered elBulli gave a public talk at the New Museum in New York City, moderated by the Drawing Center's executive director. James Beard Award-winning chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns joined, and together the two chefs touched on everything from Adrià and his restaurant's legacy, the importance of Adrià's culinary wiki Bullipedia, and the creative process in cuisine. The main question on Adrià's mind last night was "What is cooking?" and he presented part of his answer, displaying a map titled "Decoding the Genome of Cooking."
That map — which will play a major part in Bullipedia — is an attempt to codify the language of cooking, which Adrià says will allow cooking to move forward. He also revealed that under the auspices of the elBullifoundation, he is transforming a building in Barcelona into the BullipediaLab, where beginning around April a team of 80 will continue the work of classifying cuisine. Says Adrià: "We've been asking what is cuisine, what is cooking, and when did it start." Below, the top ten quotes from the talk:
1) Adrià, on how he and his team define cooking: "For us, cooking begins at the decision. If I take an apple and give it to my wife, it's cooking. It's my will to give it to her. It's the lowest threshold to define it."
2) Adrià, on simple cooking: "When you have dish with bread, butter, salmon, ham, you think, 'This is simple cooking, not like what Ferran Adrià cooks. Why does he complicate his life?' It's because you didn't make the bread, the butter, or salmon ... The idea that that kind of cooking is simple is a lie."
3) Adrià, on elBulli know-it-alls: "People talk about elBulli. That I believe this, that, and the other. But have they studied it?"
4) Adrià, on his upcoming multi-volume opus elBulli 2005-2011: "This is the evolutionary analysis of elBulli."
5) Barber, on Adrià's legacy: "I feel a great debt to Ferran because [his work has] allowed me to my express my cuisine; the way I do what I do is because of his freedom."
6) Adrià, on traditions: "When people say traditional cooking, what is traditional? ... We associate traditional with the good. There is good and bad tradition."
7) Barber, on Adrià: "If Ferran is involved with something, people will adopt it."
8) Barber, on serving a parsnip like a steak and carving it tableside: "I really got there because of the unshackling of elBulli. You couldn't do that a three-star restaurant, charging what we do."
9) Adrià, on knowing ingredients: "We all say how much we care about the product, the beautiful product. But you don't ever ask if it's a female fish or a male fish?"
10) Adrià, on the current state of affairs: "We need a shock, like what happened 15-20 years ago ... In the past three years I've seen almost no disruptive creativity in the world."