The Bulli Lab Experience. A last advice to Ferran Adria

It took three years of patient waiting, but last Sunday we finally sat down at the table of El Bulli. We shook hands with Ferran Adria, the legendary master of new tastes, of decomposition and minimalism, who hugged us unexpectedly in warm gratefulness. We visited the cool and extremely neat kitchen, almost a laboratory, filled with plastic boxes, knives, machines of unknown beauty and above all, cleaner than an operation room. We watched the brigades work like disciplined robots, admired the view on the public beach (where life went on, while the holy experience in the white restaurant was starting) and leafed through the cook bibles. We knew we would never be able to prepare dishes like Ferran, but then, just owning a book with His signature was worth the voyage. Four hours and almost forty mouth orgasms later we sat on the terrace, sipping champagne and smoking havana’s. What had happened? We were served tastings in such a dizzying tempo that we hardly had time to appreciate, let alone discuss, what we had. Sour, sweet and bitter. Cold and hot and steaming and melting. Caviar tasting of chestnuts, nuts tasting of foie gras, seaweed tasting of spaghetti carbonara, matches filled with soya, decomposed oysters and even further decomposed chicken curry. Parmesan lollies, sugar cane mojito’s, gorgonzola ostrich egg, hare and blood spoonfuls. Ah and Oh (or speechless) at every presentation. This was not eating, this was being thrown into an almost dangerous experiment. Let’s see how they react! Ferran must have thought. Who cares if the wines match, if the sequence of the food is logical or even tasty. It is about Ferran’s fantasies, dreams and creations. Eat, smell, taste, touch (many dishes have to be eaten with your hands), but never even think of having lunch…This is a once in a life time experience, whether you actually like what you put in your mouth or not. Everything is perfect, from the waiters to the toilets, the plates and the interior design. There is only one person who doesn’t seem to fit there, who is slightly lost and who looks so  incredibly sad, while his guests are enjoying their grandest culinary moment. Yes, it is Ferran himself.  Look at him, sitting at a low table, watching the public. Fragile and small and so very lonely…Is it because he will close shop on July 31st (being tired and bored and probably a little bit out of money)? Is it because he knows that his guests will never really understand the many layers of his creations? Or does it make one truly unhappy to be at the absolute summit of the profession? Whatever the answer, seeing Ferran Adria in his loneliness, signing books and menu’s, lost in his own paradise, made more impression on us than the whole crazy lunch.

Professor Ferran, please go back into your lab and never open up a restaurant again. Compose your dishes behind closed doors, invite only real people to share your gifts and enjoy what you really love: innovating with existing ingredients as extremely as you can.  Showing the world that taste is an endless field of art, a total theater where spiritual and material worlds meet. And then, eat smoked ham and goat cheese with bread and salted butter. With the right rioja. With friends, not guests. We are sure you will smile the whole day. Thanks for a wonderful experience.

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