The original of the article below, in Italian, can be read here.
3:00 PM, Milan's Stock Exchange: appointment with haute cuisine. Creative, exaggerated and avant-garde: Spanish cuisine continues to ride the media wave that is overrunning kitchens, chefs, journalists and simple food-lovers. Not surprisingly given haute cuisine's nature as fertile ground for experimentation, braveness, and for imagining ideas that can turn into full-fledged trends. For this reason someone like Ferran Adrià needs no presentation.
Time Magazine included him in the list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Adrià reinvents himself for each opening season of his El Bulli restaurant giving way to a creative madness that has foodies humming with pleasure, between charme, genius and provocation.
The great gastronomic innovation started by Adrià continues thanks to the new generation of Spanish chefs, who grew up professionally in his kitchen and are themselves able to follow a gastronomic route which fascinates and provokes, creating first class "pieces"; these creations, on which the new concept of contemporary taste is based, shows a muddled boundary between reality, science and cooking. It is in a way a niche cuisine, concentrated in Catalunya and the Basque Countries, which doesn't necessarily follow local tradition and products at all costs, but rather seeks a distinctive mark in the craftsmanship shown in the kitchen. Spanish cuisine of the last generation has fun jumping from one country to the other in its search for ingredients, manipulating these both physically and metaphorically, yet it manages nonetheless to preserve its primordial taste.
Compared to the near past, Adrià's cuisine has strengthened its links to science and food industry. Foams and destructured dishes are only a small part of what El Bulli's cuisine is: if emulgators and gelling agents are a character of the cuisine that has been copied around the world, sphere-forming agents go straight into the lab of the XXIst century chef, and already they create curiosity around them, letting the most creative cuisine dream, and not only them.
Adrià's talk at Identità Golose has been the chance to present his Decalogue in Italy, i.e. 23 strict thoughts and reflections that define El Bulli's philosophy. Between science, tradition and provocation, the Catalan chef has once more been able to become a discussion point, and his style, not for the first time, will infect the fantasy of many fellow chefs, if only for his ability to interpret an ingredient in a multitude of ways, giving each preparation a new unexpected twist. The future of cuisine looks freer: no separation or differences in relevance between sweet and savory, poor or rich ingredients, different courses...
1- Cooking is a language through which one can express harmony, creativity, happiness, beauty, poetry, complexity, magic, humor, provocation.
2- One may assume that only top-quality products will be used and that the techniques used to prepare dishes will be well-mastered.
3- All products have the same gastronomic worth, regardless of price.
4- We prefer to cook with vegetables and seafood. Dairy also predominates, as well as dried fruits and other products that amount to a light cuisine. We rarely cook large cuts of red meat or whole birds.
5- Even if the characteristics of products are changed (temperature, texture, shape, etc.), the goal is to preserve its original flavour, except when slow-cooking or when searching for the matrix resulting from reactions such as Maillard’s.
6- Cooking methods, both classical and modern, are a heritage that the cook must utilize to the maximum extent.
7- As happened throughout the past in other fields of human knowledge, new technologies support the progress of gastronomy.
8- The family of fonds is expanding, and alongside the classic ones we use lighter broths (flavoured waters, consommés, clarified vegetable juices, milks of dried fruits or nuts) in similar ways.
9- The information that is on a plate is enjoyed through all senses, and also through reflexion.
10- The stimuli of the senses are not only taste-related: we can also play with the senses of touch (contrast of temperatures and textures), smell, sight (colours, shapes, illusionisms, etc), so that the senses become one of our points of reference when we create dishes.
11- The techno-conceptual search is one of the cornerstones of the creative pyramid.
12- We create as a team.
13- The boundary separating savoury and sweet is blurred. There’s a rise in the importance of savoury ice creams and cold food in general.
14- The classical structure of dishes is being ruptured. There is a revolution in the appetizers and desserts, in the sense that they have become symbiotic, while the appetizer - main course – dessert hierarchy is broken.
15- A new way of presenting food is gaining strength.
16- A chef’s cooking style is linked to his feelings towards his surroundings.
17- The products and preparations from other countries are submitted to our cuisine’s own criteria.
18- There are two main ways to reach harmony between products and flavours: through memory (deconstructing, links to the autonomous cook, adaptation, previous modern recipes), or through new combinations.
19- Our food is connected to the world and the language of the arts.
20- Recipes are conceived to be served in small portions.
21- Taking a dish out of context, or using irony, performance or spectacle is perfectly acceptable, as long as this is not done in a superficial way, and so that there is a link with gastronomic reflexion.
22- The tasting menu is how we express our avant-garde cuisine. Its structure is alive, and is subject to change. We are betting on concepts such as snacks, tapas, morphings, etc.
23- The knowledge and/or the collaboration with experts from different fields (gastronomic culture, history, industrial design, science) is primordial in our evolution.
The sheer mass of people who attended the talk is the demonstration of the star role the Catalan chef had during the first day of this gastronomic event. Among the techniques demonstrated, Adrià took time to highlight the importance of liophylization, which allows to explore the use of crunchy and dry textures in savory dishes. The olive oil caramel, prepared by three people in one hour, is the demonstration of how El Bulli remains anchored to craft in the kitchen.
Nonetheless some of the industrial ingredients used to shape the ingredients into these new dishes have caused both curiosity and fear, showing a definite cut with older gastronomic traditions. So much so that they caused Elio Vizzari (head of the Italian restaurant guide Espresso) to add the following comment: "Ferran, it might be worthwhile to say that these techniques that allow liophylization and the presentation of the products that allow it are not at everyone's reach. It is important to say so otherwise we run into the risk of having loads of chefs liophylizing their food, but without the technical knowledge needed to do so."
Adrià excused himself, but clearly stated that he cannot be held responsible if so many chefs launch themselves into using industrial products just to copy someones else style. After all Adrià is "only" one of the 100 most influential people of the world, acclaimed by his colleagues and fans.
4:10 PM. Greece makes its entrance in the world of haute-cuisine.
Christophoros Peskias, chef of the Balthazar Bar in Athens, has taken up the challenge of letting people discover an Ellenic cuisine based on local products and traditions, influenced by the tmemory of past taste and centered on the importance of the olive tree. He is definitely sounding convincing.
Despite the finesse that marks the base idea of contemporary Mediterranean diet for its flavours known and appreciated worldwide, Peskias creations manage to be all but conformist. The presentation of the dishes of the rising Greek chef demonstrated varied and intriguing results, but most of all constant in keeping true to the chef's base idea.
© Benedetti-Grassi/Zerozero (repropuced with permission)
The modern version of the classic rice stuffed tomatoes has intriguing lines that highlight the natural character of the dish's ingredients and is presented not without a scenographic oriental touch, with an evident look at sushi for the rice part of the dish. The dish is sophisticated, definitely original and will charm the heart and taste buds of those gourmet who will travel to this new Greek destination.
© Benedetti-Grassi/Zerozero (repropuced with permission)
Eggs and tomatoes is an illusionist's dish made up of yolk jelly shaped as an egg's white, a sphere of carrot juice to recall the yolk and sauteed herbs with a side of diced tomatoes. It is also the perfect example of Peskias's philosophy: reinterpreting the classics with modern shapes and techniques, without forgetting the technique and ingredients of the feminine home-cooking tradition. It is a cuisine that does not feel the need to show its nature with the usual shapes anymore and is hence lived as an occasion to redefine Greek cuisine through new directions that show-case both its excesses and frailty. Peskias is at the head of this movement and for this reason deserves to be considered a full-fledged artist of the stove, yet Greek's gastronomic future is only beginning....