ALISON STEWART, host:
Ferran Adria began his culinary career almost 30 years ago as a dishwasher. Now he is owner and head chef at elBulli, awarded best restaurant in the world honors three years in a row by a group of international food writers and critics.
Mr. FERRAN ADRIA (Owner & Head Chef, elBulli): (Spanish spoken)
STEWART: There are a few things you should know before you run to make a reservation. The waitlist is about a year long. The restaurant says there are two million requests for 8,000 places each year. And it might be hard to pop in. ElBulli is perched on a remote beach on the northeast coast of Spain. Adria tries to use as much local produce as he can. He regularly visits food markets and talks to fishmongers, bakers, and butchers to find the freshest ingredients available, as documented in this video.
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Mr. ADRIA: (Spanish spoken)
STEWART: Should you get a reservation, don't be surprised if ham and melon is served in a wine flute, or the fondue includes monkfish liver, or some part of your meal is foam. Guests are often treated to a 30-course meal divided into four separate acts. Adria created the menu to simulate the experience of watching a movie.
Mr. ADRIA: (Spanish spoken)
STEWART: I spoke to Ferran Adria with the help of a translator.
Mr. ADRIA: (Through Translator) The 30-course meal is a bit like a film. It has different moments which you feel and experience different feelings. You know, it can be shock, provocation, emotion, sense of humor. We keep the courses quite small so that you can get through all of them. But, you know, it's an experience throughout all these little dishes.
STEWART: All the action, preparation, people, and creativity that go into an Adria meal is documented in a new book, a 528-page photo essay, "A Day at elBulli." For the brave, amateur chef, there are 30 recipes in the book. Which would be the first you'd want someone to try?
Mr. ADRIA: (Through Translator) This is not a book for home cooking. It's not really meant or intended for people to try these recipes at home. I really believe that, you know, there are books that should talk about home cooking, and others are about high-end gastronomy. I think these two have to be separate. For example, you know, when I buy a book on architecture, I'm not intending to build a building. I'm buying because I'm interested in it.
STEWART: The restaurant is open only six months a year. During that time, Adria keeps a grueling schedule. He told us his day starts at about 9 a.m. and doesn't wrap until 2 a.m. But when the restaurant is closed during the other six months, Adria isn't resting. He's traveling the world to pick up new ideas for his laboratory, otherwise known as "The Kitchen" - his secret workshop, as he calls it - the place where he developed his innovative use of sweet-and-savory foams.
It's obvious why taste is important when you're creating something. But can you explain why texture is so important?
Mr. ADRIA: (Through Translator) Food is one of those incredibly creative things. It's a very multisensory experience in which many of the senses are used. I'm sure a painter would dream to be able to create a painting that could be tasted, smelt, heard. You know, that's - I think that's part of the - what makes it rather special and unique.
STEWART: Were you the type of child that would hang around the kitchen watching family members cook? Or did your love of cooking come later?
Mr. ADRIA: (Through Translator) As a boy, I didn't hang out in the kitchen watching older people cook. This started out much later in life. And this is really important because I - it wasn't - I wasn't passionate as a young person. And that has given me a very pragmatic approach to my career and my profession that not having this passion starting out as a young person really marked who I am today.
STEWART: Ferran Adria is head chef at elBulli. His new book is "A Day at elBulli: An Insight Into the Ideas, Methods and Creativity of Ferran Adria," published by Phaidon Press.
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STEWART: And if you're courageous enough to take a stab at one of Adria's dishes, marshmallow de pinones, you can find the recipe along with an excerpt from the book at our Web site, npr.org. This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Alison Stewart.