World-renowned chef and molecular gastronomy innovator Albert Adrià made his first trip to the Pacific Northwest in early December as part of a new culinary series called MeetheChef that combines art and food to create unique gastronomic experiences.
Chef Adria is best known for his role as creative director at elBulli. Along with his brother Ferran Adrià, they developed it into one of the best and most innovative restaurants in the world garnering three Michelin stars. Since its closure in 2011, the Adrià brothers have opened a string of new restaurants located in Barcelona and beyond including Tickets (mentioned as one of San Pelligrino’s “World’s 50 Best” in 2016), Bodega 1900, and Enigma.
During his time in Seattle, Adrià attended a dinner with Nathan Myhrvold at Modernist Cuisine in Bellevue. We caught up with him the next day and talked about art, food, and his impressions of the Pacific Northwest.
425: As your first experience in the Pacific Northwest, what have you done so far and what are your impressions?
Adrià: [Seattle] is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve seen. We are doing whatever we can in just three days to get to know the culture of this area through its gastronomy. First you need to learn to choose and know the products. When we first arrive in a city or a country, we visit the market. When you go to the market, you receive information about a culture’s gastronomy. Yesterday morning, we were in the market (Pike Place) and we looked at the quality of the produce. From the little of what we’ve seen, it would be easy to make the decision to open a restaurant here. There are good products.
425: The MeetheChef series was all about the connection of art and food. What or who inspires you creatively?
Adrià: First of all, I am a cook. There are people who consider my work art, but I am not an artist, of course. I do not believe cooks are artists. You would have to define what art is but art in its most primary sense has no function at all. And the kitchen does [have a function]. What inspires us a lot is to work with different branches of professions and creative people. Architects, designers, industrial designers, sculptors, ceramicists. For me, nature is the biggest inspiration.
425: Is food your medium?
Adrià: I work with the food and I work with the spaces. The aesthetic, the uniforms, the music, the ambiance, the dishware. The quality of the dishes. At Enigma, I work with artists to create the dishes. At Bodega, we got the dishware at the flea market. You work with the whole package and create this total ambiance. This is why we work with architects – all the good and the bad things [i.e. for better or worse]. They always want to create their thing. Always more expensive than you think. And they always finish later then you planned.
425: What do you hope people take away from the MeetheChef experiences?
Adrià: We could have arrived there and showed ten beautiful videos. Or cook. And through our dishes, explain our philosophy. And that’s what we did. In the kitchen, there are many truths. We explained our truth. And made people ask questions. I’m sure that the day after many people were asking themselves more questions.
425: What’s your truth in the kitchen?
Adrià: I also have many truths and change them, but the biggest and greatest truth is that the kitchen starts with the quality of the product. And you should know the product’s seasonality. For example, if we came here to cook we would take a month searching and searching everything that this territory could provide us. Searching culture, recipes. And adapt us to the territory. This is key to success.
425: So, you would come to a place and listen and learn and observe first?
Adrià: Yes, and eat in the restaurants here to see not just the food but how long people like to take eating, why are the places that are full successful? The food is one part.
425: Are there any cooking techniques that you are excited about right now?
Adrià: For me in the end, techniques are just routine. The final result is only the quality of the product and the flavor. But the more techniques you know, the more roads you can choose to work the product. This is a mistake some cooks make. They use a technique with no limit. For example: sous vide – they do it systematically without even questioning themselves why (if it’s helping or not) to make the product better.
425: What is your favorite part of your job?
Adrià: I’m lucky with my business, with my job. I make people cry sometimes because it’s so beautiful. The capacity to extract a memory for someone, like one that was forgotten, is incredible.
425: Where have you eaten so far and where else are you going?
Adrià: Yesterday we ate at JuneBaby. I love it. I love it. I believe it is the food people like here. We are going to be tourists now and walk through Seattle. We are going to Linda’s Tavern. We are happy in taverns and bars.