How the World of Food Has Changed, According to Ferran Adrià
In an opinion piece published in today's La Vanguardia, the leading newspaper in Spain's Catalonia region, celebrated chef and gastronomic philosopher Ferran Adrià of the famed elBulli offers his reflections on how the world of cuisine has changed over the past 15 years.
He cites seven areas in which things are different now than they once were (his points are paraphrased here):
1. The phenomenon of the internet, which has "completely changed the relation between diner and restaurant" in numerous ways — by spoiling the surprise of the dining experience, which "substantially mitigates the experience of the creative"; by offering a plurality of restaurant guides and other sources of restaurant information, thus breaking the monopoly once enjoyed by institutions like the Guide Michelin; by globalizing knowledge, whether of restaurant openings, new products, or cooking techniques; and by allowing restaurants to control costs better through online reservation systems and ticketing.
2. Gastronomy in the universities, meaning that the subject is now being taken seriously by institutions of higher learning and entering the educational mainstream.
3. Creative freedom, which has given chefs in many countries a chance to join "the world creative landscape," aided by the increasing awareness of research as part of the creative process.
4. Social conscience, through which "In many gastronomic restaurants, leaders and the rest of the team are socially aware of ecology, social progress, health or food, as promoted by organizations such as Slow Food, Oceana, etc." Included under this heading is the increased importance of "the woman, both cook and restaurateur."
5. Informality — that is, the retreat from "the luxury image of gastronomic restaurants," the disappearing barriers between dining room and kitchen, the introduction of performance aspects into the restaurant experience, and the fact that beer, sake, cocktails, and teas are being offered with meals as well as just water and wine.
6. The lexicon of gastronomy, meaning not so much the language itself but categories that no longer mean what they once did. Now, "All the products have the same gastronomic value, regardless of price." The barriers between sweet and savory are blurred, as the role of pastry chef evolves to encompass dishes beyond dessert. In main courses, "the hierarchy of 'product-garnish-sauce' is broken." More food is finished in the dining room, sometimes by the diner. Spain's tapas and the culinary traditions — as well as "products, tools, techniques, and elaborations" — of other cuisines have become widespread around the world.
7. Collaboration between chefs and experts from other fields, including history and design as well as the physical sciences. "Sharing this holistic view among kitchen professionals contributes to this [culinary] evolution."