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Book Blurb: The Sorcerer’s Apprentices

March 2, 2013 1 comment

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

Chicago: Next: El Bulli (May 2012)

May 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Authors: Victor and Karen
Restaurant: Next Restaurant (El Bulli Menu)
Exec Chefs: Grant Achatz and Dave Beran
Consultant for the meal: Ferran Adrià

Date: May 27, 2012

Victor’s thoughts on the meal:
-This meal was one of the most thought-provoking meals of my life. Kudos to Ferran Adrià for these dishes he has created throughout his time at El Bulli, and kudos to Grant Achatz for recreating them at Next.
-Taste-wise, not every course was as delicious as the courses in, for instance, Per Se would be, but it was just such an experience to see these different textures and flavors utilized together.
-It was the first time I encountered “air”, smoke foam, and a hollow globe made of gorgonzola cheese, and I don’t think I’ll forget that experience.

Meal background:
-This meal was basically a tribute to Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli; Grant Achatz wanted to faithfully recreate a meal that featured different courses El Bulli has served throughout the years, and Ferran Adrià served as a consultant to help him accomplish this.
-Next Restaurant utilizes a ticketing system, and you had to pretty much buy your reservation “tickets” weeks before at a set time. (Tickets generally sold out within 30 minutes.)
-Next: El Bulli ran from February 8 to May 27. I GOT REALLY LUCKY; I managed to get two seats through a friend’s friend on the very last day!

Click to see the pictures!