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soils and gardens
the next step for molecular gastronomy

In the past, the waves of truly original gastronomy were wide apart. Marie–Antoine Carême started his apprenticeship in 1798 and Escoffier followed coming to prominence in 1898. Both changed the face of the cuisine, as it was known at that time. Then it was not until the early 1960’s that Michelle Guérard and Paul Bocuse and Alain Chapel came to fame with Nouvelle Cuisine and again the culinary world grasped the concept of minuscule perfectly presented portions and ran with it until diners tired of it and chefs were forced to take a new direction. Less butter and cream plenty of seasonality but the plating techniques and portion sizes have stayed with us in the form of degustation menus that have only recently gained real acceptance in Australia.

Vegetable field, photograph © Ditte Isager courtesy Phaidon Press
NOMA : Time & Place in Nordic Cuisine p120

Whilst these four chefs, their protégés and admirers did change the face of cuisine at the middle and high end throughout the globe, none have so totally turned our concept of dining upside down as Ferran Adrià and the El Bulli team. The Spanish (Catalan) restaurant El Bulli was number one in the world in 1998 and 1999 in the prestigious S. Pellegrino awards, to drop a miraculous one place to two in 2010, superseded by a protégé and former estage the Danish René Redzepi and his restaurant NOMA. El Bulli has been in the top 50 list of best restaurants in the world an incredible six times. Ferran Adrià is one of those rare completely unique individuals not obsessed with his ego. There is no screaming or yelling in his kitchen and he is not star struck with his own super ego. In fact he always seems somewhat bemused by the success of his cuisine style and the restaurant itself. The genuine gratitude and respect of the chefs who have done estage at El Bulli is unanimous, Ferran Adrià is a unique talent and one of the very few chefs in culinary history that can claim to have done truly original dishes. The recently released reinventing Food Ferran Adrià, the man who changed the way we eat, written by Colman Andrews gives a unique insight into Ferran Adrià and the restaurant itself. Coleman comes with impeccable culinary and literary credentials; an expert on Catalan food, he is a regarded food journalist and author and has eaten at El Bulli and enviable number of times. This is a brilliant book and try, as I have to ration it, it has been almost totally devoured in great greedy chunks because it is just such brilliant and well researched manuscript. It opens up a world that many of us will never be lucky enough to experience but have an endless fascination for. A biographer without deep roots in food and Spain could never have done this remarkable story justice and whilst we have been disappointed with some previous Phaidon publications, especially Silver Spoon and thought that A Day at El Bulli did not do justice to Ferran Adrià or the El Bulli team and restaurant, this publication and the about to be released NOMA have redeemed them as publishers of gastronomy in our eyes.

The importance of estage to up and coming young chefs cannot be underestimated. The truth is that many have done estage at El Bulli and many have achieved remarkable fame but none more so that the Danish René Redzepi now number one in the world. Add to that it is no small commitment on the part of the estage; a minimum of four months there is no pay and all expenses, including accommodation and food must be funded by the estage. However, for the clever and dedicated young chef this financial sacrifice in return for learning can be a leg–up into the world of haute cuisine as chef–owners or coveted head chef positions. Were as in the 80’smany estage might have precisely emulated Michelle Guérard and Paul Bocuse and Alain Chapel explaining why took some time to develop their own nuances it seems that those chefs coming through Ferran Adrià’s hands seem to have been given permission to take what they have learned turn it on its head and make it his or her own. This is one of the reasons why the ’Ferran affect’ has been so extraordinary. “’He (meaning Ferran) taught us that there were many ways to change,’ says Joan Roca, chef and co–owner of the three–star restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, who did stage (a kind of work experience placement) at El Bulli in 1989. “He opened the door, he gave us freedom. His greatest influence isn’t in recipes or techniques but in giving us the idea that anything is possible.’ Carme Ruscalleda of Sant Pau in Sant Pol de mar, another Catalan three–star chef, says, ’Ferran’s message is that if the results are good, anything goes. How liberating!’”

How liberating indeed that young chefs no longer have to wait into their fifties before gaining their Michelin stars or to receive acclaim for their food. This is why the legacy of Ferran Adrià is so far reaching because rather than be annoyed by reinterpretation of his food or techniques, he encourages it. René Redzepi is 33 in December and chef and co–owner of NOMA, where in just six years he has totally reinvented Danish cuisine. Redzepi dined at El Bulli in 1998 and returned to do estage in 1999 taking elements of what he had learned and adding it to his own concept of food, Redzepi’s food is influenced but original. The plating is exquisite, the fresh local and seasonal produce obsessional and the over all result incredible. NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi is the book that every chef worth a pinch of salt on the planet has been waiting for and it is again redemption in our eyes that Phaidon are finally delivering the promise of their blurb. Food porn the plating is art, yet this is food that delivers extraordinary tastes, textures; the pared back almost Japanese plating that would surely disappoint if it failed to deliver on flavour. Sometimes it might look simple but rest assured it is not. The photographs by Ditte Isager are stunning and whilst not always a fan of cookbook with massed photographs often used as a type of sorcery to hide the lack of content and kitchen testing like the book Alinea the plating is as important as the instructions because it is doubtful that any other chef might deliver the same result. Not all chefs write succinct recipes and in fact many of the most famous authors would not have succeeded without their long–suffering and highly knowledgeable editors. Grant Achatz, of Chicago’s Alinea wrote his recipes with an unusually generosity and all of the recipes we have tried from his stunning book have delivered on first try — read the review of Achatz’s book. Redzepi appears to write recipes with the same generosity. They are clearly laid out and nicely explained, but regardless of whether you plain to emulate Redzepi’s food or not, if you buy one cookbook this year NOMA should be the one!

left – reinventing FoodFerran Adrià, the man who changed the way we eat, Colman Andrews, P/B published by Phaidon Press, $38.95 AUD and right NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi, H/B Published by Phaidon Press, $69.95 AUD cover images courtesy Phaidon Press

If you want a book defining Ferran Adrià’s food we recommend buying food books directly from the El Bulli web site. They are not cheap but they are exquisite.

If you would like to read Kaaren Palmer’s 09 review of NOMA rightly predicting it her best–ever meal in 2009!

René Redzepi, chef at noma number one and just 33 years old 16 Deceember this year!
photographer Anders Birch, image courtesy noma

the people behind Galaxy Guidesfood editor and publisher
Ann Oliver

champagne editor
Kaaren Palmer


Jan Bowman
Political comentator, briliant photographer…farmers’s market obsessed…Brisbane based.

Olivia Stratton Makris
Masters of Gastronomy, NYC, Spain and constant assistance and editorial suggestion…Adelaide based.

Michael Martin…Northern America 2016.Photographic assistance Kym Martin…Adelaide based.

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copyright © text, recipes and images Ann Oliver & Kaaren Palmer 2016.