Ferran Adrià had always been a remarkable chef. Having joined elBulli in Spain in 1984, he travelled overseas to meet other chefs and gain inspiration.
It was in the late 1980s that Ferran Adrià, on a visit to Nice, heard Jacques Maximin define creativity as “creativity means not copying”. Since then, nothing’s been the same. Adrià’s elBulli kitchen closed for winter for the first time to focus on development of new techniques and dishes following that visit to the Maximin’s restaurant at the Negresco Hotel. It was a long time ago – but it’s an important turning point. Perhaps this is where Adrià’s trajectory to become the best chef in the world began? Adrià had always been a remarkable chef. Having joined elBulli in Spain in 1984, he travelled overseas to meet other chefs and gain inspiration. In 1996, Joel Robuchon described him as the best chef in the world – perhaps the first international endorsement of his talents, but certainly not the last. Heston Blumenthal, Juan Mari Arzak, and Paul Bocuse are just a few of the chefs who reiterate admiration for Adrià’s genius. He was travelling the world promoting elBulli 2005-2011 when The Adelaide Review met him. elBulli 2005-2011 is a seven-volume compendium with striking imagery, luxurious paper stock and meticulously gathered insights into the 1846 dishes created over seven years at elBulli. Adrià has taken creativity further than just not copying. He is convinced creativity can be measured. “Yes, perfectly so,” he states. “But in general, we don’t want to do it because it seems as if, ‘Okay, if I’m creative then I can do anything! Don’t pressure me, because pressure is not good for me if I am creative.’ That is not true. You can measure creativity at the end — whether you have produced or not. There are so very many ways to create in the world and so many disciplines in the world that everyone has their own process. But it’s the quantity of results, that’s where you are going to measure it, so you can measure it perfectly.” Ferran Adria portrait. The measurement of creativity, even with a reliable formula, isn’t an easy process. It’s hard to imagine what would motivate someone to do it. “To not copy myself. Most people don’t want to look at their own past because they would realise that they copy themselves,” he says. “Another thing that’s important is, if you understand what you do and analyse it, I think it’s useful for you to create, at least it’s useful for me to create. When you want to last for many years — I want to be very long-lasting in creativity — it is a daily battle. And all of this self-supervision, if you will, I think it’s very important to do it. And this is just subjective, some people may say, ‘Oh no, that’s not true’, but then I’d like to see how long they last. And in general you could say that people who have lasted [for] a long time have been very ordered.” The compendium, elBulli 2005–2011, certainly reflects this order. Each dish is beautifully photographed and recorded. Ironically perhaps, it will lead to copying. “Well, if we publish something like this, it is indeed to share it,” he says. “Some people take 10 ideas, others take five. Another takes one. For someone it’s a life changing experience, for someone else it’s not. Every chef is different but it is without a doubt a very influential work.” It is also a very beautiful work, by any aesthetic measure, and was mostly completed in-house, including the photography. “We do this every year, four or five times a year. And the styling, we also did that. Because after 1846 dishes and thousands and thousands of snapshots we have learnt a thing or two.” elBulli 2005–2011 is available through Phaidon Australia