A creative network of the idea, by the idea, for the idea

Monday, February 16, 2009

Creativity is not copying. - Restaurant series I -

El Bulli is a restaurant in Barcelona. Google “best restaurant in the world”, you’ll see El Bulli is unanimously ranked the best, year after year. And the owner and chef; Ferran Adria is considered the most innovative chef working in a restaurant today.

In a new book called "A day at El Bulli", the chef describes in detail the insights, methods and creativity used by him and his team managing the restaurant and the menu.

In 1987 Jacques Maximin was asked what’s creativity? and he answered: “Creativity means not copying” This inspired Adria entire career.
  • Creativity means exploring. They spend 6 months brainstorming, 6 months executing. During the brainstorming season they develop new cooking techniques, new concepts for dishes. They investigate food and drinks, hardware and colors, designers and manufacturers.
  • Knowledge is essential. Investigation promotes understanding. Experimentation is promoted with ingredients gastronomically and scientifically.
Creative method I
  • A concept is the basic idea behind a dish, which can be elaborated in different ways to create different dishes. (idea)
  • Concept and technique. A technique is any process by which a product may be cooked or transformed. (execution)
  • A guest does not need to appreciate a new technique in order to enjoy the dish, but it adds to the experience.
Creative method II
  • Association. Create a list of ingredients, cooking methods, sauces and finished dishes. This creates limitless combination.
  • Inspiration. It requires a reference from any field to form the starting point.
  • Adaptation. Taking a dish that already exists and remaking it to one’s ow taste.
  • Deconstruction. Every part of the original dish, including its form is modified.
  • Minimalism. When magic is created with minimum ingredients.
  • The structure of the menu. Its planned the way the narrative of a film is structured. And its divided in 4 acts, each with its own character.
  • Relationship between guest and chef. The chef, the waiter and the guest play a part in the meal. The waiter plays an important role by helping the guest adapt to the rhythm of the kitchen and maximize their experience with their meal.
  • Role of the chef: ability to cook common sense and judgment, experience in other fields, knowledge, philosophy and creative abilities.
  • Role of the waiter transmitter: Create a warm atmosphere, conveys philosophy, serves the food, explains dishes, controls quality, controls timing.
  • Role of the guest: Gastronomic experience and knowledge, senses, sixth sense (enjoy cooking with intellect) spirit and emotions.
  • Art? El Bulli’s food is provocative, new and often surprising, but is always in the sphere of cooking.
Creative Methods III
Eating involves the use of all the senses. Each sense can be seen as a separate creative method. And they can be combined to produce the most interesting results.
  • Sight. First sense to transmit information about a dish. One of the principal ways to engage with a guest.
  • Hearing. Knowing the qualities of the food helps design dishes around the properties that deliver on this sense (large potato chips)
  • Touch. Temperature and texture.
  • Smell. Adding smell to dishes with no natural “smell”, creates an experience.
  • Taste. The heart of the act of eating. Taste is detecting flavors. Flavor is the range of sensory perceptions yield by the food.
  • Sixth sense. Intellectual satisfaction. Transgressing the traditional boundaries of cousine is an important par of the sixth sense, but it is crucial to preserve the distinction between playfulness and gratituos provocation.
  • New ways of serving food. A waiter needs to give instructions to help the guest enjoy the dish to the full. Particularly is it is a new concept for which there is no reference point.
Altering the structure of a dish can result in total freedom and the absence of any guiding rules, but the composition should not be anarchic or arbitrary. It should be grounded in analysis and reflection.

El Bulli serves 50 guests per day, 160 days per year. The restaurant is sold out a year in advanced. 4o chefs work at the restaurant and 26 people serving the dining room.

El Bulli shows that creativity is hard work, making choices and sticking to them.
Table for two please.

1 comment:

  1. A great conversation with F. Adria on Charlie Rose