Now that the legendary El Bulli has served its final meal, what’s Ferran Adria up to? If you think he’s enjoying his retirement, sitting on a beach sipping drinks garnished with paper umbrellas, you’re way off the mark.
Most recently he’s been spotted crisscrossing the U.S. promoting a new cookbook. The book has nothing to do with molecular gastronomy or revolutionary cuisine. It’s titled The Family Meal: Home Cooking With Ferran Adria, and the recipes are based on staff meals that used to be served at El Bulli. When the restaurant opened for the season, Adria had six months worth of menus planned in advance—for the help as well as the guests. The criteria for staff meals were that they had to take no more than 90 minutes to prepare, be healthful and varied, include ingredients that were easy to obtain, and cost no more than $5.50 per person.
“Not everyone can spend $20 on dinner,” he says, and remarks that telling home cooks to buy exotic raw materials “is like telling everyone to buy a Ferrari. You do the best with the resources you’ve got.” His recipes are as simple as Waldorf Salad or as intriguing as risotto with duck leg, sofrito and picada.
Beyond that, Adria is doing the planning and fundraising for the El Bulli Foundation, which will open on the site of the old restaurant in 2014. He has said that although it may be a Foundation in the legal sense, the concept is beyond anything that currently exists. Adria wants to create a culinary think tank which will function as a school and idea reservoir for the best young talent on the planet. It will serve meals, but will not be a restaurant in the traditional sense: no money will be charged, and attendance will be by invitation only. In truth, no one (except for him and his inner circle) probably knows what he’s really up to. Like El Bulli, the parameters of the idea will emerge gradually—startling and original, a work of genius that will take us to a new concept of food and cooking.