KATE: I wish there was a cookbook for life, you know? With recipes telling us exactly what to do. I know. I know. You’re gonna say “How else can we learn, Kate?”
THERAPIST: Mm. No, actually I wasn’t going to say that. You wanna guess again?
KATE: Oh, no, go ahead.
THERAPIST: Well, what I was going to say was, you know better than anyone. It’s the recipes you create yourself that are the best.
—No Reservations, 2007, Scott Hicks.
In I Wonder: One Woman’s Search for Answers in NYC, I answer ‘How to cook success’ and other meaningful questions that we all raise sooner or later in our lives.
Eating is a very complex thing.
I can’t stand parsley. I don’t like salt cod. But I love salt cod croquettes with parsley.
I don’t like cooked carrots, but raw. I don’t like raw tuna, but cooked.
All right, take your time. Laugh at me as much as you want, though it’s not me who said that blatant statement but Ferran Adrià, the most creative chef in the world. I say creative because you don’t go to El Bulli to have a meal but an experience.
I would have loved to explain to you my experience in Cala Montjoi, yet unfortunately I haven’t been one of the eight thousand privileged diners from all over the world who pass through El Bulli year after year.
I have read extensively about him. I listened to him at the New York City Wine & Food Festival at The Times Center, courtesy of a dear friend of mine, last Saturday. However, I missed the most important part: to taste one of his creations.
El Bulli Foundation will reopen his doors in two years. I guess that since they are not taking reservations anymore, I might have a chance. Just sayin’. Anyway, in the meantime, I will try to cook an exquisite dish inspired by the luminary creator, called Success.
Passion isn’t a product easy to find. It requires consciousness and self-knowledge. One is able to recognize that she has passion about something when in the task neither looks at her watch for long hours, nor needs a policeman behind to keep her seated at the desk, but is involved in what the psychology professor Mihály Csíkszentmihályi called Flow.
To caramelize it requires lots of hard work, tons of very hard work. Suffice it to say, Ferran worked 17 hours a day, 365 days a year. Alles Klar tyros? And once it’s caramelized, it’s so sweet that you want to share it. Ferran is so generous in giving his recipes and culinary techniques to everyone.
The issue with this product is when you find it out. Some, as Ferran, in their twenties; others, in their thirties, or even later. If it takes you longer to find it out, drop more gallons of liquefied Courage.
For emulsifying Creativity, mix confidence, self-respect, and freedom. Ferran knew he was doing something right. He actually allowed himself to play as children do: with total freedom, in spite of inner and outer conditionings—Ferran has been called charlatan, pretentious, bogus, and even harshly accused of endangering the health of his customers through the use of additives. I got to thinking that revolutionary people will never be totally understood in their time—but a hundred years later. And finally he gave to himself permission to make mistakes, experimenting, learning, growing, and evolving.
Surround the dish with great deal of foamy stamina. Ferran explains that he had been struggling for fifteen years at El Bulli; almost nobody went. ‘Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happens all at once,’ said Paulo Coelho in The Winner Stands Alone. But he took advantage of that free time by working, exploring, and growing. He never, never, never gave up. His mission was not to have fame, but to have fun. And when you have fun, why quit?
Of course, Ferran had to be creative in order to survive. He and his team worked on his first book El Bulli. El sabor del Mediterráneo, and in outside catering years later.
The out-of-the-way restaurant needed just one paramount ingredient. The pure essence of visibility was brought about by The New York Times in late summer of 2003 on the front cover of its Sunday magazine “The Nueva Nouvelle Cuisine: How Spain Became the New France.”
That’s it. The spherified visibility created the myth.
And the El Bulli hung a placard at its façade: Two-year waiting list, if you’re lucky. In recent years, El Bulli experienced a tsunami of people each year yearning begging to dine there.
The challenge is to keep a frozen humility—in terms of continuing to learn and grow—from the day you start searching for the products until the prepared dish is served.
When some people become a superstar, celebrity, whatever, they start behaving as Divas/Divos. I have heard Ferran saying a thousand times, “I am a normal person. It’s impossible to learn about cuisine.” And he is actually a normal person. But he’s a normal person who excels in preparing the current dish.
We are not able to see the last ingredient. Call it luck, call it fate, call it airy chance, you name it.
What if Ferran’s parents had forced him to study a career?
What if his first job had been in the front office of a bank instead of at a kitchen as a clean-up guy?
What if Dr. Schilling had not sold the restaurant to him?
What if Ferran had not endured privation for so long?
Would he still have become the best chef in the world?
Cook Duration: A lifetime.