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Ferran Adrià

(El Bulli Foundation):

A Masterclass

in Creativity 

Sixteen years after an interview with Ferran Adrià in Barcelona that changed his life, Jerome Bloch closed the circle through another conversation with the chef. Interview. 

Jerome Bloch: Thank you for taking the time for this second interview. You already answered my questions in 2008 and it was a life-changing experience. It changed the way I run my business and the way I run my life. My goal today is to inspire other people. There is a 15-episode series on Amazon Prime where viewers can watch the entire story of El Bulli which started in 1961 with mini-golf in Cala Montjoi until today and the El Bulli Foundation.

Ferran Adrià: Thank you. There is also a separate program, in one episode called “El Bulli: Cooking in Progress.”

Jerome Bloch: When I entered your kitchen in 2008, there was a massive bull’s head in the middle of it, from Xavier Medina Campeny. How important was your stay with him in 1992?

Ferran Adrià: Very important. It was the first time I saw an artist in the process of creating. I was still a little naive about creation at that time in my life. Very little - almost nothing - had been written about what would be the theory of innovation in cooking. There was no theoretical basis. This is something we had to build from scratch. My stay with Xavier marked the beginning of my quest for innovation. I've learned a lot about people from the creative industry during this process.

Jerome Bloch: A little bit of context: The bar opened in 1962. The first Michelin star arrived in 1976 with Jean-Louis Neichel. Juli Soler arrived in 1981 and obtained a second star with Jean-Paul Vinay. You arrived in 1983, became co-chef in 1984, and solo chef in 1987. You reclaimed two stars in 1990. Next question: You make people question everything. What do you expect people to find?

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"The first thing is to understand how you understand yourself and how to be understood"

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Ferran Adrià: The first thing is to understand how you understand yourself and how to be understood. Otherwise, nothing works. In my team, we question everything, especially the status quo. We learned not to be dogmatic. It is important to realize that everything is grey. But to understand greys, you have to understand black and white.

Jerome Bloch: Is it something that comes from the Catalan culture or even from the Empordà region where you live and where Dalí was born? 

Ferran Adrià: I feel very Catalan, but I also think that talent has nothing to do with your home country. 


Jerome Bloch: Is this also a quest for happiness?

Ferran Adrià: Yes, because in the end, the ultimate goal is happiness. We are all here in this world to have a good time.

Jerome Bloch: When people watch the news today, it is difficult to distinguish what is white from what is black and to make their own judgment.

Ferran Adrià: It is essential to learn as much as you can about the world around you so that you become able to formulate and defend your own opinion.

Jerome Bloch: Let's move on to art. You consider yourself a cook, not an artist

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Ferran Adrià: My umbrella is creation. Within this creation, you can find different disciplines with their own language. The languages of painting, music, design, and science are different from one another. But all of them share the same conclusion: Creation! By the way, creation and innovation, although they are different concepts, go together.

Jerome Bloch: Just like Picasso - who lived in the area - you went through several periods: The taste for the Mediterranean in 1993, textures in 1994, a collision between the sweet and salted worlds, and so on. Can you explain how techniques influence creativity?

Ferran Adrià: Inside a restaurant, you can focus on many different elements. We focus on food. With food alone, you can create products, tools, processes, structures, offers, or cooking techniques. And within these cooking techniques, there is one called “basic techniques.” From the beginning of the world, until today, humans created more or less 100 basic techniques. If you can create ten new techniques, it is a revolution. This is one of the paths into which we have put all our efforts.

Flavor concentration, sprouts

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Jerome Bloch: You created a research team in 1994. And then you opened your Taller in Barcelona in 2000.

Ferran Adrià: What we did was systematize the creation. In other disciplines it was normal, in the kitchen, it was not. We wrote everything. Published our work. In total, we created 1,846 new dishes.  

Jerome Bloch: Yes, and people can read the books from many decades ago.

Ferran Adrià: In the first catalog I reasoned about the history of cooking. It took us a total of 7,000 pages to explain the entire El Bulli process.

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"The first thing is to understand how you understand yourself and how to be understood"

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Jerome Bloch: In the Amazon series, people can appreciate specific techniques such as working with ultra-thin caramel, the foam revolution, or how the powder of foie gras was invented. I found it very interesting to see how new techniques enable creativity. Let’s move on to precariousness. El Bulli was the best restaurant in the world for many years, but it was never profitable.

Ferran Adrià: Let me explain that clearly: We did not want to be profitable. We had a business model where El Bulli was in the middle. Around it, we had many other businesses, like banquets and consulting.

Jerome Bloch: Yes, I remember that in 2008, the menu cost only €190 despite more than one million people asking for a table.

Ferran Adrià: You need to understand the context. We are dedicated to the avant-garde. In the business world, it would be called “disruptive innovation.” We learned that the avant-garde itself should not be profitable. You can try to make it profitable, but our only objective was pioneering the kitchen experience.

Jerome Bloch: In the 80s it was difficult for Juli to pay the salaries. Do you think that this economic difficulty inspired your creativity?

Ferran Adrià: I do a lot of innovation conferences. I always say that my reference is not valid. My career is my career. You can be inspired by something, but you won't be able to replicate it, because times are different. Nowadays, if you tell a young man or woman that he or she will work 14 years without earning any money, it sounds absurd. Yes, it is true that we did it, but you have to adapt to the times. 


Jerome Bloch: Now, let's go to July 30, 2011. Why has El Bulli closed?

Ferran Adrià: It is very simple. Remember the concept of the avant-garde. Our mission was to seek the limits of the gastronomic experience. And in 2011 we said: “We can't go any further”. We had to be consistent with the avant-garde concept. For me, the most important thing was to be honest with myself. First, you have to be honest with yourself and then with everyone else.

Jerome Bloch: I proposed to my wife when I ate in your restaurant, on the terrace with the beautiful view of Cala Montjoi. The sommelier came and I told him that for this special occasion, he could pick the bottle of his choice. He asked several questions and brought a fantastic Spanish wine. When I paid, it was only €75. The sommelier found the wine that matched our answers to his questions.  


Ferran Adrià: That is the philosophy of El Bulli.

"The most essential thing is to learn as much as you can about the world around you so that you become able to formulate and defend your own opinion"

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Jerome Bloch: What’s next?

Ferran Adrià: We incorporate a new gastronomic university the MACC in Madrid over 10,000 m² where we are developing the Sapiens methodology. We are designing the entire University curriculum. We also share our experience in innovation, especially for small businesses and young people. I give more than 120 conferences a year around the world and I have different projects related to books on innovation. 


Jerome Bloch: A last word for people watching: How did you create this culture? This is what all managers are looking for. 

Ferran Adrià: You have to differentiate large and small companies. I have been an advisor to large multinationals, and they are totally different. For a small businessman, his company is for himself or herself. It's his life. Maybe there are some exceptions, but in big companies, you need to be a good professional and do your job. Having the passion and the strength is a little more difficult to incorporate into that type of management. I have known people who started in a big company with a lot of passion, but then the system made it very difficult to preserve it. That's why all I ask of people who work for a large company is to be as professional as possible. Anything more than that is a fantastic effort, but it doesn't have to be a requirement.

Jerome Bloch: I remember that you made a fantastic video with Estrella Damm about a young man falling in love while working at El Bulli and creating his own restaurant. Estrella means Star. Don't you think that what you had in El Bulli was this star that you followed for decades? The inspiration for incarnating the avant-garde in the world of cuisine?

Ferran Adrià: You have to say it. It is very difficult to be objective with myself.

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