The flow of a wide variety of gastronomic trends in London in recent years has seriously put into question its title of culinary capital; especially when considering other such equally dynamic markets. Currently, the main contender for “world cuisine” dominance is Barcelona, and quite rightly. For one thing, the rich gastronomic heritage of Catalonia allows local restaurateurs unlimited possibilities for the realisation of their projects, and for another, Spanish chefs have become more active, both in their homeland and far beyond its borders, in recent years.
Albert Adrià, culinary enthusiast and guru of molecular gastronomy, is one such chef who has succeeded in this area in recent years. His colleagues call him “Always Busy Albert”, as Adrià, who is often involved in several projects at once, is always coming up with something new for even the most demanding of audiences.
His passion for cooking was passed down from his mother, who can be seen most days still working in a restaurant of her own. His older brother, Ferran, is also a chef, and in their earlier days, the two boys could often be found conjuring up molecular masterpieces over at elBulli. Playing at first with different flavours of ice cream, the younger Adrià went on to work with wasabi yogurt and cakes soaked in Campari. Regardless of his culinary success however Albert remained in the shadow of his older brother Ferran, who once said, “Albert’s biggest challenge has always been being my brother.”
After the closing of elBulli in 2011, the elder of the two jumped into academic research involving Bullipedia – a repository of all of the gastronomic knowledge collected from the restaurant, and later started work on the elBulli Foundation. The younger was plunged into a world of gastronomic metamorphosis, learning about different products and their capabilities, as well as experimenting with different restaurant concepts. In a short time, he managed to open and convert several eateries in Barcelona, such as cocktail bar 41, which has 41 drinks on the menu; Tickets Bar for tapas, which received a Michelin star soon after opening; Nikkei; and Bodega 1900, where Spanish tradition introduces guests to vermouth accompanied with olives, potato chips, and sausages.
About his success Adrià says, “I like simplicity.”
From simple to more high-profile projects, the most “explosive” has to be his collaboration with Cirque du Soleil. In Heart of Ibiza, the synergy of gastronomy, music, and unforgettable experiences has been the realisation of one of his life-long dreams.
“This is not a restaurant. A restaurant has waiters, chefs, guests. People come here to eat, yes, but also to enjoy themselves. Each of the senses is affected by what happens here, and this is the difference in Heart of Ibiza. I needed to change 40 dishes before I found balance in the kitchen.”
It should come as no surprise then that Adrià has, in the past, pushed back the openings of his restaurants– if he has not created the exact atmosphere and feeling he wants, the doors remain closed.
A number of other interesting eateries Adrià has on the go include a Peruvian Japanese mix in Pakta, and also the Mexican-flavoured Hoja Santa.
Then there’s the super exciting 50-day pop-up project Adrià just finished up inside London’s Café Royal, called “50 Days of Albert Adrià”, which ran from 12 February to 9 April. And with bated breath, everyone is waiting for his most recent unveiling – Enigma, a concept with cuisine that promises, as always, to surprise and delight audiences.
Each and every project has but one aim and that is to allow the Spaniard to continue cooking and promoting authentic food in his homeland as well as abroad, and to this end Adrià is even considering opening a beach club in the Dominican Republic. “This way, I can work in my swimming shorts,” he jokes.
Whether all of his plans for the future are realised or not, one thing remains true – this newest project, like all the others, will leave its mark in the gastro-world. His restaurants continue to strive for new and exciting gourmet dining experiences, and his chefs continually endeavour for new ideas and inspiration.
“I am very demanding of people, but even more I am fastidious with myself. There is nothing worse than being an Adrià and leaving people in different,” says the chef.