Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Real Masterchef

elBulli: Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food
When: July 2013
Where:Somerset House, London

This was an exhibition that had no right to work.  Who in their right mind would pay good money to look at small pictures of food, fake plastic food and read about a German couple opening a small hill side restaurant in Spain named after their dog?  I guess that is the pull of elBulli, the world's most famous restaurant for culinary excellence until it closed its doors to become the elBulli foundation to help inspire the next generation of chefs.

The exhibition starts with a celebration, the final dish served at elBulli, they team led be the maestro Ferran Adrià are celebrating like it's opening night.  This simple video really got me in the mood and sucked me in as we began the journey into how elBulli began.

Contrary to the way the world likes to present things elBulli  didn't just become the height of modern cuisine overnight.  In fact it had very humble beginnings as a sea side restaurant opened up by a German couple who named it after their dog.  There are some great early pictures of the couple and one that stood out to me was the sign next the restaurant from crazy golf.  Over the next 20-30 years the menu and the cooking became more refined and the restaurant was getting mentioned in guide books.  The food was influenced by French Nouveau Cuisine and they had the kind of menu that you;d see at many fine dining French restaurants around the world.  This probably explained why they hired the young Ferran Adrià to work at the restaurant thanks to a glowing recommendation from a famous French chef.

This is the point where the exhibition picks up pace and interest as we see how a love of new cuisines from France matched with a passion for seasonal and local transforms into the elBulli we became familiar with filled with foams, gels and various deconstructions.   These rules from French cooking are adapted as Ferran takes over the restaurant and gives it a philosophy and rules in order to better the food in the restaurant, make it more Spanish, fresher, seasonal.

The next part is when we see these rules come into effect and how the menu is suddenly transformed from classic French cooking to something altogether more modern.  Each dish is numbered and various experiments take place to further the food.  During this part of the exhibition you can view the various dishes via short videos and photos as well as sit at a virtual dining table and be served projected food.

The pen ultimate section of the exhibition puts elBulli  in a wider context, the influence of Japan, the furthering of the philophy and all of the equipment used to craft and serve these exquisite dishes.  We also learn about some of the more famous "regular" customers that visited the restaurant, including when elBulli turned Japanese for a week.

The final section of the exhibition dealt with the forthcoming elBulli foundation.  By the end of the exhibition  I felt truly enlightened and enthusiastic.  If you are someone that enjoys cooking or enjoys leading a team then this exhibition is fascinating, if you do both it is essential!

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