Ferran Adrià began his famed culinary career washing dishes at the restaurant of Hotel Playafels in Castelldefels, Spain—in fact his father, Ginès, helped get him the job after Adrià dropped out of school. Here, Adrià familiarized himself with basic cooking methods and worked to build his gastronomic repertoire. Adrià then went on to work at various restaurants before becoming assistant chef at Finisterre, a popular Barcelona restaurant. Following that, he served in the Spanish military at the Naval Base of Cartagena, where he was suitably stationed in the kitchen. In 1984, at the age of 22, Adrià joined the kitchen staff of El Bulli, and only 18 months later, he became head chef.
El Bulli, located on the coast of Catalonia on the outskirts of Barcelona, was known as a traditional French restaurant. When Adrià joined the staff, the restaurant’s manager, Juli Soler, urged Adrià to travel to acquire fresh culinary ideas. Adrià soon began touring some of France’s top kitchens, learning various techniques from many distinguished culinary masters. During the second half of the 1980s, Adrià began performing culinary experiments, which were based on using fresh raw materials and adapting classic Mediterranean preparations to give El Bulli’s cuisine new twists with creative flair.
Among the many experiments Adrià conducted, one of the most impressive and well received was his use of foams. This technique consists of aerating ingredients with a siphon by introducing minute bubbles that alter the texture of food. Adrià began applying this culinary method to both sweet and savory dishes, while respecting his philosophy of combining unexpected contrasts of flavor, temperature, and texture. At this point, Adrià’s known repertoire extends well beyond the world of foams. But all of his culinary approaches are intended to provoke a multi-faceted, and often emotional, response from the diner.
In line with Adrià’s experimental philosophy, he dutifully closes El Bulli for six months every year to travel abroad in search of new inspiration and ideas with which to astonish his diners. And amazed they are. Adrià, who has been called “the Salvador Dali of the kitchen,” has won global acclaim as one of the most creative and inventive culinary geniuses in the world. And now, on the verge of its seasonal closing, Adrià and El Bulli will embark on a two year journey of reinvention. The restaurant as is will cease to be, transforming into a foundation for the progress of cuisine; it will serve cuisine, of undetermined variety, in a very limited capacity when it reopens in 2014.