“New, creative and unique are not the same thing.”
When they hear about the elBulli workshop, most people think of the one on Calle Portaferrissa in Barcelona where most of the creative work takes place during the winter. However, the real workshop, Ferran’s secret laboratory, is near the restaurant at Cala Montjoi.
The initial research into techniques and concepts takes place at the Barcelona work-shop, but the dishes themselves are created in the kitchens at elBulli. For more than twenty years the main ideas and strategies have been decided here.
Creativity involves coming up with something that has not been done before, but novelty alone is not enough. It takes many hours of experimentation to create something that is both new and interesting.
‘You don’t have problems if new ones arrive every minute.’
An hour of solitude and concentration is essential in order to ensure that everything is well organized and runs smoothly. During the season at el Bulli this is the only hour of the day that Ferran dedicates to business matters and administration.
Ferran is constantly curious and never stops looking for new ideas, no matter where he is or what he is doing. He is so busy setting himself challenges that he does not have the time to stop and see them as problematic. In fact, solving them is essential to help him keep an active and creative mind. Seen in this way, his ‘problems’ are not really problems at all.
“With creativity, it is not what you look for that matters, but what you find.”
Ferran arrives at elBulli for the start of the creative sessions, along with head chefs Albert Raurich, Eduard Xatruch and Oriol Castro, Albert Adrià (Ferran’s brother and the creative director of the workshop) and Mateu Casañas, the head chef of the sweet world. Joining them are three young chefs chosen from the many who join elBulli every year on work experience placements, known as ‘stages’.
When they first arrived, these young chefs (or ‘stagers’) probably never imagined they would have the chance to participate in the creative sessions. In the following weeks the other stagers will have their turn to experience the ongoing development work. The process of arriving at a new dish is as important as the dish itself, and sometimes the creative path leads in unexpected directions.
An excerpt from A day at el Bulli published by Phaidon Press.