You can’t come to Spain without paying homage to Chef Ferran Adria, the master of molecular gastronomy who led the restaurant El Bulli to the top of the world’s best restaurant list for years before it officially closed last year.

Because the restaurant closed, I can never experience Adria’s brilliance. True, he opened a restaurant in Barcelona with his brother called Tickets (which, of course, was fully booked while I was there), but his attention these days is focused on launching his foundation to promote culinary creativity.

So the closest I got to Adria’s legacy was a special exhibit at the Palau Robert, a government cultural center in the heart of the city. The exhibit, “Ferran Adria and El Bulli: Risk, Freedom and Creativity,” offers a history of the restaurant (which opened way before Adria started cooking there) and a look into the creative mind of Adria.

The exhibit runs until February 2013, when it then heads to New York followed by London. If you don’t get the chance to see it, here’s just a snapshot of what’s on display.

The exhibit starts with a timeline of both the restaurant’s origins and Adria’s birth and childhood.

A table scene from El Bulli is projected onto a table at the exhibit

Chef Adria uses color clay molded as ingredients and then plans out each plate for the night’s dinner. His kitchen team follows the clay model to perfectly plate the dish to Adria’s vision.

Endless photos of the dishes served over the years at El Bulli

Huh, I must have missed this episode

This is just part of the chocolate bonanza that’s brought out to guests at El Bulli at the end of the meal.

Ferran Adria’s influence is undisputed among Spain’s many young chefs, as I came to learn while dining during my trip

Palau Robert, Passeig de Gracia, 107 (at Carrer de Corsega), Barcelona. PH: (34) Open Mon.-Sun., 10 a.m.––8 p.m. Ferran Adria exhibit in Room 3; exhibition closes on Feb. 3, 2013. Free

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5 Responses to Going Into the Mind of a Great Chef

  1. Foodhoe says:

    How cool that you were able to see this exhibit, even cooler that there is such a thing at all!

    • Ben Ben says:

      There was a lot more to the exhibit that I didn’t photograph, like a video wall showing a day in the life of the El Bulli kitchen. Just hearing the sounds and seeing the chefs running back and forth made me feel like I was standing right in the kitchen. The U.S. needs to create an exhibit like this for the French Laundry.

  2. Row says:

    Wow, what an exhibit! That photograph with the clay and the finished dish speaks volumes. Art on a plate… brilliant.

  3. Carolyn Jung says:

    If you ever get a chance to see this film,, you should. It’s a fascinating look at how they created the dishes that Adria was famous for. The exhibit you went to would go hand in hand with this flick. 😉

    • Ben Ben says:

      I had that film on my Netflix, but of course that was the one DVD that got lost in the mail. I may have to put it on my list again.