Ferran Adrià Talks Gastronomy in His Inimitable Way
The format of the Culinary Conclave organized by Ferran Adrià and Andoni Aduriz on March 29 and 30 at LeDomaine, a luxury hotel in a converted monastery adjacent to the Abadía Retuerta winery in Spain's Ribera del Duero region, called for 15 international journalists to give presentations on the recent gastronomic history of their respective home regions. After each one, Adrià sprung to his feet and, well, did what he usually does when he addresses a crowd: talks with great enthusiasm in a sort of stream-of-consciousness manner, full of non sequiturs, provocation, and aperçu, full of rhetorical questions and occasional head-scratchers.
Here is a transcription of some of his remarks, presented as he offered them, in no particular order (or perhaps in an order that made sense only to him), but as usual with Adrià, full of ideas and challenges:
We know when certain restaurants opened, but when did they start doing what they do? When did the high-end press become interested in food? In Spain, I can tell you who was and wasn't influential, but we need to know this for every country.There used to be one gastronomy. There used to be three stars. Jiro [the fabled sushi restaurant in Tokyo] with three stars is kind of a joke, as if the best ham in Spain could have three stars. Everyone has his own gastronomy, but how do you classify gastronomy?
Marketing is very important for restaurants. It's an Anglo-Saxon thing. In Spain, it was unthinkable to have a public relations head in a restaurant. When did the first restaurant PR agencies emerge? When did gastronomical academies appear? When was Charlie Trotter known? When I knew him, no one in Europe had heard of him.
Young people are lost today. There's so much information that they can't be objective.
There is learned cooking and popular cooking. It used to be that the wealthy had learned cooking, the poor had popular cooking. That changed with the emergence of the middle class. The rules used to be clear, what was and wasn't gastronomy. You don't quite know anymore.
It's worth writing about journalists. The important ones have had influence on restaurants, making them better even when they're critical of them.
Another list would be of conflicts and controversies. People used to write that Adrià was poisoning people. Yes. You wouldn't believe the violence that existed. I was called names.
Another list: new products. When was mozzarella di bufala first used in gastronomy? I used to think that mozzarella was a village and how could you have buffalo in Italy? We have 20 or 30 times more products than Escoffier had. I used to think pasta was ordinary. Another list: when did people begin to share recipes and information? Also environmental concerns, ecology. When did chefs start doing bistros? When did chefs start doing outside catering?
We need to study the effects of gastronomy on ecology, health, the economy. Historically, Alice Waters and Dan Barber will be recognized as important figures in world history.
Two recent facts I found shocking: Per Se closed by the health department? Unthinkable. And I was sushi chef at Nobu making sushi wearing rubber gloves! If mayonnaise cannot be made any more with fresh eggs, that's an attack on gastronomy.
We need to make a graph on fairs, festivals, conferences, and shows, and the difference between them.
Why does Denmark have contemporary cooking and Austria has taken so long?
With creative cooking, we have no scientific objectivity.
Michelin no longer has any weight, and you can publish that. I have a lot of respect for it but the monopoly is over. Nobody in this room can name the latest three-star in France. We need a list of the hundred most influential chefs in the world — the most influential, not necessarily the most creative, in gastronomic terms, not on TV.
We need to know how gastronomy affects society. When I started cooking in 1980, it was unthinkable that people at a gastronomical conference would talk about anything but food. But we need context.
There used to be one gastronomy. There used to be three stars. Jiro [the fabled sushi restaurant in Tokyo] with three stars is kind of a joke, as if the best ham in Spain could have three stars. Everyone has his own gastronomy, but how do you classify gastronomy?
Because of the internet, I no longer need to eat in bad places, because I can look at the dining room, look at the menu.
How many types of journalists are there — and I don't mean good and bad?