Highlights from Ferran Adrià's Culinary Conclave
The 15 European and American food writers and journalists who gathered on March 29th for Ferran Adrià Culinary Conclave — held at LeDomaine, a luxury hotel in a converted monastery adjacent to the Abadía Retuerta winery in Spain's Ribera del Duero region — covered a wide range of topics in their discussions. Here are a few highlights of their remarks:
Howard Chua-Eoan, news director of Time Magazine from 2000 to 2013, and editor of the magazine's controversial "Gods of Food" section.
"I was in a car in New York with Ferran one night, and we were heading downtown, when he suddenly decided that he wanted to go to Nobu. 'Call Nobu,' he told me. I dialed the restaurant and told the young woman who answered the phone that I was with Ferran Adrià and they wanted to come for dinner. The woman had no idea who I was talking about and said a table was impossible on such short notice. 'Who are you talking to' Ferran asked me. 'The restaurant,' I said. 'No, no, no, no,' said Ferran, 'I said call Nobu. He's in Los Angeles. Here's his number.' I did and got him on the phone, and of course we got our table, and I suspect a young woman at the restaurant got a lesson."
Allen Jenkins, editor of Observer Food Monthly.
"Fish and chips is a dish from the East End of London, combining fried fish from Jewish cooking with frites brought to England by the Huguenot French. In the 1960s, there were 30,000 fish and chips shops in Britain. A chipper was the first restaurant most people went to. In 1997, chicken tikka masala, a dish unknown in India, replaced fish and chips as England's favorite food."
"In 2008, about 8,000 people in Britain ate at food banks. Last year, it was half a million. One government minister said that food banks were rising because it's free food. But in the U.K., you need a doctor's certificate stating that you cannot afford to eat in order to use a food bank, so that's obvious nonsense. The most influential figure in British food today is Jack Monroe, a left-leaning lesbian woman who feeds herself and her young son on £10 [about $16.50] a week — and that includes the cost of elecrricity for cooking!"
Anya von Bremzen, widely published food writer and author of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, a memoir.
"During the recent revolution in Ukraine, they served borscht. It's the Ukrainian national dish. Then the Russians served borscht at the Olympics in Sochi, and there was a debate about who it belonged to. We should pay more attention to the political-social context for food revolutions. Nouvelle cuisine in France grew out of the events of 1968, elBulli grew out of the movida [the countercultural ferment in Spain after the death of Franco in 1975], the expansion of downtown New York as a restaurant center was fueled by Wall Street in the prosperous '80s, the 2008 economic crisis in italy prompted the return of the trattoria. And there's 9/11. Comfort food was already a trend, but 9/11 provided the legitmacy for eating mac and cheese. We should look at modern history vis à vis gastronomy."
Bill Knott, restaurant critic for The Gannet in the Financial Times and for Christie's magazine and wine columnist for The Oldie.
The early important figures in British cuisine were all French — Carême [Marie-Antoine Carême, who went to London in 1815 to cook for the Prince Regent, later King George IV], Soyer [Alexis Soyer, who was the most famous chef in Victorian London], Escoffier [Auguste Escoffier, who cooked at London's Savoy and Carlton hotels), Boulestin [Marcel Boulestin, whose restaurant in Covent Garden was highly acclaimed]. In 1937, Boulestin became the first TV chef, but there were only about 6,000 TVs in Britain at the time, and the BBC stopped transmission during World War II, and Boulestin was dead by the time the war was over."
Ryan King, Milan-based food journalist and writer for Fine Dining Lovers, an online magzine.
"I'm interested in the ways in which the dining experience has changed with technology. Technology can entertain, and can enhance flavor. Recently in London there was a dinner with fireworks that you could taste. Technology can be used for enhancing flavor or memory. Maybe one day could i capture the aroma of a dish and send it to a friend. For me 3-D printing is one of the most disruptive developments of recent years. You could print pastas in any shape, you could print sugar cubes. These things now inform and entertain, but what about using them for health? Perhaps we will have something like Google Glass to make food look bigger, trick us into thinking we have had more to eat. There are apps that change the sound of food as you chew it. Is the next thing personalization, which would allow us to sit in the same restaurant and have different experiences? How can we control all this technology?"