Humble genius

9 May

As a journalist, I’ve had the honour and, often, the pleasure of interviewing many inspiring individuals. As a food writer, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to quite a few acclaimed chefs, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman being one of them. Nothing however quite prepared me for meeting and interviewing, albeit briefly, Ferran Adria (pictured above; photographed by my colleague, fab photographer Yap Chee Hong) who is unarguably one of the best chefs of our time.

In his 20-year plus career, Adria has revolutionised the way we think of food preparation. Traditional methods, while still highly respected by him, have been taken apart and unrecognisably re assembled to produced food in forms that are simply quite breathtaking. Caviar pearls made solely from olive oil, a perfect white egg shell made from coconut milk, translucent star anise and mandarin lollipop. You have to see these creations to believe them. Click on this link if you want to  read my interview with Adria featured in The Star.

What was most striking about meeting Adria is how accessible he is. Ironic really, given as how unaccessible El Bulli is to the majority of us: his world famous El Bulli (three michelin stars) just outside Barcelona in Spain has close to two million people on its waiting list.

He has his share of detractors — many who claim he uses fancy technique to dazzle; who claim a meal at El Bulli isn’t really a meal, even after 35 courses. But these are no thorns in his side for Adria merely says, those who diss him either have never been to El Bulli (“you have to be at El Bulli to understand El Bulli”) or they just “don’t speak the language of El Bulli”.

The language of El Bulli is the language of creativity. And creativity is Adria’s life breath. The need to create is the reason why, despite its popularity, Adria recenlt announced the impending closure of El Bulli in 2012. El Bulli, he says, has reached it’s peak and he and his team (Adria, his brother Albert and three others form the creative force of El Bulli) need to take on greater challenges. In two years (by 2014), Adria promises greater things for El Bulli and for cuisine.

That’s me in green, by the way, smiling from ear to ear.

Though Adria explained in some detail how he works and how he achieves some of  the textures and forms in his food, I will never even attempt to replicate his style. What I did take away from him was his single minded dedication and passion for his art (for he produces not dishes, but works of art) and the need to constantly better my work, not merely in the kitchen but on the page.

Whatever his plans are for El Bulli in 2014, we can be sure it’ll be something worth looking out for. It was a pleasure, Chef Adria. And a privilege.

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