Ferrán Adrià was born in Barcelona in 1962. He started out washing dishes at a restaurant in the town of Castelldefels, where the chef taught him the basics. He then worked at various restaurants before becoming assistant chef at a well-known Barcelona restaurant, Finisterre. That was followed by compulsory military service at the Naval Base of Cartagena, where he worked in the kitchen. Finally, in 1984, at age 22, he joined the staff of El Bulli, and he became head chef eighteen months later.

El Bulli's cuisine was basically traditional French, but the restaurant's manager, Juli Soler, sent Adrià off to conjure new ideas, touring some of the top kitchens in France and learning under the great masters. During the second half of the 1980s, Adrià started experimenting based on the use of fresh materials and spinning classic Mediterranean cuisine into something different.

One such twist was the application of his now-famous foams. Basically, this consisted of aerating ingredients with a siphon, introducing minute bubbles to the texture, a technique which is common for some desserts but which Adrià applied to savory dishes. His goal is to provide unexpected contrasts of flavor, temperature and texture. The idea is to provoke, surprise and delight the diner.

In 1997, El Bulli earned its third Michelin star, one of only three restaurants in Spain with this ranking. Many make the pilgrimage to this now legendary eatery, despite its inaccessible location at the end of a narrow, winding mountain road. Yet, few get the chance as it’s only open five days a week and closed four months a year while Adrià searches for inspiration abroad.


   Published: July 2005