There are countless fantastic chefs working around the world today, but only a handful can be considered truly great. Those visionaries, whose creativity, artistry and vision transcend the medium and whose impact is so monumental, that it revolutionises the gastronomic landscape entirely. Culinary alchemists such as Carême and Escoffier, whose culinary genius define their generation.
You are one of the most important and influential voices in the culinary world, but who or what has influenced you the most over your career?
I consider myself to be self-taught. I haven’t spent long periods working in other kitchens, but I have studied in depth the works of the great chefs, especially those of the Nouvelle Cuisine, which greatly inspired me during my early stage in elBulli. But one day, after hearing from Jacques Maximin the phrase “creativity means not copying”, I decided to search for my own line of cooking, using the knowledge and standards that I had gained, in order to be able to explore the limits of cookery within a well thought out logic.
Where do you find your inspiration?
There is no exact method to finding inspiration, it emerges from many different sources. I have found inspiration travelling, watching films, listening to an opera, reading a book... The wonderful thing is that the world and life itself is full of inspiring moments and situations; what’s important is to be prepared to capture the inspiration from each moment, and to have the capability to know how to utilise that inspiration in a concrete way, which, in our case, is to create a dish.
What has been your proudest achievement?
We have created many techniques and concepts of which we are very proud, such as the foams, the warm jellies, the airs, the spherification, etc, because today we could say that these things have triumphed in gastronomy, and it is not strange to find them in restaurants of all corners of the world.
But if I had to choose one thing, it would be achieving the global propagation of the Spirit of elBulli. Beyond the dishes, the techniques and the concepts, the thing that most fills us with satisfaction is that the way of thinking, of doing, of understanding cookery and life in general, has been propagated thanks to the extraordinary chefs that have come out of elBulli. In this way, our spirit will continue to live.
What (if anything) do you miss the most about the restaurant?
Honestly, I don’t have time to miss anything. I am currently working more than ever, and between the trips to explain the elBulliFoundation to the world, the development of all of the Foundation’s projects, and other things, we are super active.
The work that we are doing is thrilling, which is why I don’t miss the elBulli restaurant. That said, there are times when I am in a restaurant and I get the urge to get behind the stoves. But anyhow, soOn the elBulliFoundation will become reality and there I will cook more than ever.
Tell me more about the elBulliFoundation and its three main projects.
The activities of the elBulliFoundation will be divided into 3 projects:
ElBulli 1846 will be the space showcasing the history of elBulli restaurant, from its launch up to its transformation into the elBulliFoundation.
The Bullipedia is a creative archive of all existing knowledge of the history of cooking, which aims to help cooks all around the world to create and also to encourage the education and teaching of cooking.
ElBulli DNA will be the creative team, who will divulge all their work via the internet.
What do you hope to achieve?
To help in the continued advancement of cookery, using creativity as the main link, to make our work and our creative way of doing things more accessible to anyone who is interested, and to improve the understanding of cooking.
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced so far with the Foundation?
It’s a completely new project for which we have no existing reference and therefore we cannot compare ourselves to other experiences or past events.
This is the first project of its kind to be undertaken in cooking, which makes it a huge feat. But we are confident that with our motto: Freedom, risk and passion, we will make the elBulliFoundation a success in the world of cooking.
When you are in the UK, where do you look forward to visiting (both food related and otherwise)?
I love the UK. I travel quite a lot to London, it’s a city I am in love with.
In terms of the gastronomy, the fact that London is a multicultural city, makes it incredibly attractive. You get the convergence of local cuisine cooks (Heston being the clearest example) with those who practice foreign cookery of an extraordinary quality, which secures the UK as one of the countries with the best quality and most versatile gastronomy in the world.
In addition, the wonderful markets, shops and artisan producers that can be found in the UK make it one of the top gastronomic destinations of the planet.
What do you like about British cuisine?
That they have known how to maintain their cookery culture as well as being able to absorb all the cultural influences that have come from the outside.
What do you enjoy cooking at home?
Everything, whatever I fancy at any given moment, although at home I cook very simply. I enjoy making tortilla de patatas [Spanish potato omelette], for example.
Are there any foods you don’t like?
What one piece of advice would you give to amateur and home cooks?
Eating in a fun, healthy, attractive and economic way at home is totally possible. In fact, a few years ago we made a book called “The Family Meal”, where we explained the recipes that we were cooking for ourselves in elBulli. In it, we demonstrated that at home anyone can cook in an amateur semi-professional way in terms of results. The important thing is to get organised, and to enjoy eating and cooking.
We are what we eat, and eating well feeds the soul.
More information about the elBulliFoundation can be found at http://www.elbullifoundation.org