Daniel Ritort

Ferran Adria moves from bites to bytes

Ferran Adria, Catalan cooker

Ferran Adria, Catalan cooker

Twenty-eight years ago, Ferran Adria joined the kitchen of El Bulli, a business later lauded as the world’s best restaurant.

Adria is regarded as one of the most gifted chefs in the world. El Bulli was named world’s best restaurant five times, and now he is developing La Bullipedia.

On 30 July last year, Adria closed that restaurant down forever, arguably at the height of its success. Too many people, this may seem like a strange decision, but for him it was the next logical step in the evolution of his understanding of cuisine.

Adria said gastronomy is for him not only about cooking techniques or ingredients, it is about innovation. From his point of view, like music, business or art, there can bo no process in cuisine without an idea. He argued it needs a concept, an idea which is then supported and nourished by technique, therefore, innovation is a critical catalyst for this process.

He stressed that, at El Bulli, innovation was their lifeblood. He explains his team created 1,864 dishes over almost a quarter of a century, constantly experimenting, changing and adapting their food. He said this is why so many people wanted to taste their food, because every dish was special, and every dish was unique.

For this reason, he added, at the end they decided to close the restaurant to concentrate their efforts solely on research and development. He pointed out that innovation will still sit at the heart of everything they do, but it will now be complemented by one of the most powerful and exiting forces this planet has ever seen: digital technology.

In his opinion, the internet has arguably been the greatest democratizing factor in the history of cuisine. He explained that never before has so much information about food been available to so many people so easily, hence, the gastronomic world has been opened up to a new generation of chefs who can connect in previously inconceivable ways.

Adria stated it is his believe that harnessing technology is the only way that cuisine will continue to evolve. He explained that is why he launched the El Bulli Foundation, a center of innovation allied with digital technology that has its roots in creativity and learning.

He said he wants the foundation to become a center of innovation, allying chefs with digital technology and placing haute cuisine under the microscope like never before. The venture is founded on the research and data accrued from El Bulli, and forms the basis for what he hopes will one day become the definitive gastronomic resource.

For this reason, he stressed, at the center of this this is La Bullipedia.

He argued the internet on its own is limited because information can be found without the need to actually acquire knowledge. He also said they want people to acquire knowledge through the navigation of information.

La Bullipedia will be an online, curated database that will one day contain every piece of gastronomic knowledge. According to Adria, it will be more than that though, it will connect cooks and chefs with ideas and data that would have previously taken them years to discover.

He pointed out they are taking fundamental aspects of digital technology such as algorithms and data and applying it to food. He said they are putting the combined knowledge of El Bulli online where people can adapt and modify it, and draw inspiration from some of the most innovative recipes ever created.

In his opinion, cooking shares many characteristics with the internet, both are the sum of many parts and both enjoy the rare gift of limitless potential. Digital technology, when combined with innovation, plays a key role to unlocking this potential.

He said he firmly believes that as a chef if you only speak to other cooks you’ll get bored. Bullipedia uses cooking as a language and eventually it’ll connect with other disciplines such as design and architecture.

Innovation, he said, is bred through collaboration and creative auditing. Very few organizations today track the developments and inventions from their creative teams. Technology can help capture the valuable information generated from the development process, and preserve it for future use and analysis.

Technology is now helping to provide future generations of creative with the tools that they need to be innovative. It is acting as an enabler, connector and collaborator. Adria said he believes that it will now sit at the heart of gastronomy and be fundamental driver of innovation in the industry.

He said they have journeyed part of the way to discovering the genome of cuisine, and the Digital technology will allow them to take the final step.

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    • [...] Bulli was the first Catalan restaurant to receive the world’s highest recognition. The Catalan chef Ferran Adrià revolutionized the world’s cuisine and most restaurant critics see him as a sort of Picasso, who revolutionized [...]

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