So I’ve been reading a few books about food, not cookbooks with recipes, but just written works about restaurants/chefs, and thought I’d share them with you. I’ll try to avoid any spoilers, and simply give a brief synopsis and my thoughts on the book.
First up is The Sorcerer’s Apprentices by Lisa Abend. For a book about Ferran Adria’s El Bulli, it’s a weird title. I wonder if Ferran, who hates the term “molecular gastronomy”, would take any offense to being called a sorcerer. It seems even further removed from simply being “chef”, which seems to be his preference. Anywhoo, the book isn’t so much about Ferran as it is about the stagiaires who worked at El Bulli during its final year.
For those of you who don’t know, a stagiaire is like a kitchen intern. Stagiaires volunteered to work at El Bulli for free, and most of them did so for a few months at a time. The goal is to learn from the restaurant, pick up skills, and then move on.
Staging at El Bulli sounds so intense and yet monotonous at the same time. You’ll see what I mean if you read it. But I really enjoyed the book for giving an insider’s perspective about the tough road to being a great chef. Many of the stages share their backgrounds with the author and you really get to know where they come from, what they want to do, and what their concerns are. I really recommend this book to people who are either fans of el bulli or interested in learning more about staging.
For those who primarily want to know about Ferran’s creative process in coming up with his dishes, I’d recommend watching the documentary el bulli: Cooking in Progress instead of reading this book. Both have great insights into the restaurant though. Forewarning: the pacing of both the book and the movie can be slow at times. For example, from the book, the stagiaires don’t ever learn how to master a single one of Ferran’s dishes, because they’re all just relegated to very specific tasks for each dish. It can seem less exciting than what you’d initially think a wizard’s lab to be like. Don’t let that scare you away though! Life rarely moves at a hollywood frenetic pace anyways :P