elBulli: Ferran Adrià and the Art of Food at Somerset House
For the few people who have had the pleasure of eating at elBulli, the wonderful mind of Ferran Adrià has been expressed to them on the plate. Since the three Michelin-starred restaurant’s closure in July 2011 he has become an even greater enigma and even more in demand. This exhibition, set up at the illustrious Somerset House, delves in to the inner workings of elBulli and all who made it what it is today.
The establishment started from humble beginnings: in the 1960s German Hans Schilling and his wife Marketta opened a beach bar in the town of Roses that then became a grill. Through the late 60s and 70s it evolved at the hands of a number of successful men into a fine dining establishment. Adrià joined the kitchen in 1984, and later bought the restaurant from the Schillings (with the help of his brother), swiftly growing elBulli into the influential powerhouse it is today. And they did it while honing the skills of some of the world’s greatest chefs: Redzepi, Roca, Bottura and Achatz to name a few.
The exhibition, originally run in Barcelona, is an in-depth tour of the history of elBulli. As Adrià insisted, the display is not about him but about the restaurant and the people who helped build it, starting with a short video of the last three minutes of elBulli dinner service, highlighting Ferran’s close relationship with his team. It then moves on to the story of the Schillings and their role, followed by the evolution of the food that appears on the menu, complete with handwritten notes and explanations of the technical processes, including the dishes and equipment used. The presentation is a multimedia journey of the dedication and precision that put the restaurant together and is, surprisingly, the first food exhibition of its kind.
The Barcelona display welcomed over 700,000 visitors and with Londoners being great fans of Adrià’s, Somerset House can expect at least as many. Set in the Embankment Galleries, the exhibition is easily one of the best ways to spend an afternoon. It is a treat for anyone who knows of Ferran: previous guests will delight in recognising the menu and dishes they ate (if they can find them- there were 1846 in total in the restaurant’s repertoire), all whilst re-living their dining experience. Others will enjoy the insight and “mad scientist” logic that went into the establishment. If “creativity means not copying” to Adrià, then elBulli: Ferran Adrià and the Art of Food takes creativity to new heights, just as his restaurant did.
Photos: Allie Suwanrumpha
elBulli: Ferran Adrià and the Art of Food is at Somerset House from 5th July until 29th September 2013. For further information or to book visit the gallery’s website here.