One of the most interesting factors related to cooking as an art form is its undeniable and increasing connection to science. Art and science have historically been seen as opposing forces, but the line between the two has wavered notably in modern times. The culinary arts have received a massive influx of creativity and attention, due to their growing involvement in scientific processes. There is even a course of study that many burgeoning chefs take at their respective universities, called “Food Science.”

Gastronomy is defined as the art or activity of cooking and eating fine food, while molecular gastronomy is a sub-discipline of food science, involving the chemical and physical transformations that occur while cooking, as well as the social, aesthetic, technical, and culinary implications of those scientific phenomena in the presentation and creation of food. There is no denying that scientific processes are involved in every aspect of cooking, even in something as simple as frying an egg, but the meticulous manipulation of science to create something spectacular, delicious, beautiful, and unique must also fall into the category of art.

Ferran Adria has made a name for himself in the field of culinary arts by embracing the intricate relationship of art and science in his cooking, perhaps more so than any other chef in history. This Spanish-born chef arrived on the culinary scene in 1984, when he was only 22, and began working as a line chef at a small restaurant called elBulli, located near the town of Roses, on the Costa Brava in Spain. His humble entrance into elBulli caused no lasting mark on his reputation, as he was named the head chef within 18 months.

Over the next 25 years, Ferran Adria turned elBulli into a global destination for haute cuisine. elBulli now sits in the elite echelon populated by restaurants that have received not one, but three Michelin stars. During the period of 20022009, elBulli was named the #1 restaurant in the world a record setting five times by Restaurant magazine, and would likely have held that title, at least in the minds of its diners, for many years to come. ElBulli was a French restaurant under the guidance of Jean- Louis Neichel, before Adria took over in 1987 and began to transform it into a restaurant that defied any specific cultural classification.

Adria was dedicated to his craft and had little concern for making a profit. Since the year 2000, the restaurant in fact never operated at a profit. It was supported by book sales, appearances and speeches by Adria, and a variety of other peripheral sources of income. The restaurant served only 8,000 patrons per season, although more than 2 million requests for a reservation were received every year. Adria has often spoken of his style of cooking, and although his statements are often enigmatic and philosophical, it is clear that he thinks of experiencing a meal in a similar way to a night out at the theater. There is a flow and rhythm to the dishes, choreography between the waiters and sommeliers, while climaxes and surprises punctuate the entire event.

In order to deliver an once-in-a-lifetime experience, elBulli would actually close for half the year, while Adria and his top chefs and aides would retreat to “elBulliTaller,” a culinary workshop in Barcelona, to experiment with new techniques and try out new recipes. Even the name “elBulliTaller” is reminiscent of the French word for workshop, which is atelier; In France, the word atelier is commonly associated with artist’s workshops; the ateliers of Picasso and Matisse are places where legendary artistic accomplishments occurred. Ferran Adria would often travel the world, absorbing and studying culinary styles that were on the cutting edge of the food industry, and then tweak them to fit within his vision for the following season’s menu.

Ferran Adria has mastered the science behind gastronomy and incorporated it into his cooking further than most chefs would ever dream of doing. The kitchen of elBulli would often have looked like a laboratory, to the untrained eye. Duplicating Adria’s recipes was often impossible, unless you happened to have a candyfloss machine, Perspex molds, a liquid nitrogen tank, a Pacojet, and a freeze-dryer to hand. The various techniques that he mastered or innovated allowed him to combine seemingly impossible flavors, and create unique textures and applications within dishes. For example, there are not many restaurants in the world that serve tobacco- flavored blackberry crushed ice or frozen whiskey sour candy.

Pushing the boundaries of what forms food was able to take and what the taste buds of patrons were able to handle was an essential part of Adria’s work at elBulli. Creativity used to create designs that give rise to shock and awe is certainly not a new concept; modern art achieved much the same response back in the early 20th century. However, the ability to explore the infinite reaches of cuisine through science is something that has only recently been revealed. Just as with other revolutionary forms of art and thought, molecular gastronomy and the inclusion of scientific processes might take time to be accepted by a wide audience.

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