The Spaniard many regard as the world’s greatest chef, Ferran Adria, is currently visiting Australia to promote his new cookbook, an 18kg, 2700-page monster spanning the history of his now-closed three-star restaurant, elBulli, near Barcelona.
The seven-volume book, elBulli 2005-2011, costs $750. That works out at about $1 per recipe. But it’s unlikely anyone will cook from something that reads like the culinary version of A Brief History Of Time.
Adria was a culinary alchemist who changed the restaurant world by inventing techniques that transformed food in magical ways. He works at the cutting edge of cuisine, re-imagining it in spectacular fashion and in the process, he created a new language for food.
To up-and-coming chefs, he is revered like a god. In Sydney, dozens of people paid $750 for the chance to hang out with the superstar chef at Tetsuya’s, taking home the book that discusses “our work with hydrocolloids”.
A signature dish from elBulli, featured in the volume, was ‘Spherical green olives’. They look like olives, but were actually special jellies with a liquid olive centre. The recipe calls for sodium alginate, calcium chloride and xantana. In creating the dish, Adria pioneered a craze known as ‘spherification’, copied by chefs around the world. He also worked with liquid nitrogen and other industrial chemicals to transform food.
elBulli became a cult restaurant, declared the best in the world five years in a row. It was only open for six months of the year and more than 2 million scrambled to get one of the 8000 seats available during the dining season. A meal there featured more than 30 courses.
Adria’s catalogue of the final seven years of his restaurant reveals a methodical archivist who, perhaps aware of his unique place in culinary evolution, was keen to share his discoveries. Even if the recipes are beyond comprehension for ordinary mortals, the exquisite photography of the end dish are the ultimate in foodie porn.
For many, elBulli 2005-2011, is like looking at plans to build you own A380, but for a handful of the world’s best chefs, Adria’s $750 book is a bible.
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