Photo Credit: Francesc Guillamet
We're not denying that Dominique Ansel, the wickedly inventive New York-based French pastry chef, is responsible for the Cronut craze and the more recent Milk and Cookie Shot. But it's safe to say his ideas ultimately originated with another European master, namely Spanish chef Ferran Adria. We might also want to thank (blame?) Adria for the age of the ramen burger, the doughnut breakfast sandwich, and even Taco Bell's new waffle taco, which debuts today.
In the new book "Ferran Adria and El Bulli: The Art, the Philosophy, the Gastronomy" (Overlook Press), the French intellectual Jean-Paul Jouary looks at how Adria's now-closed El Bulli—the notoriously impossible-to-get-into, wildly innovative restaurant in Roses, Spain—was essentially a philosophical experiment.
"While Derrida deconstructed language in order to refute the structuralist thesis of univocal linguistic structures, opening up a creative space to a multiplicity of senses, so Ferran Adria has deconstructed all Western cooking forms to go beyond eternal pretensions and open up a world in which infinite creations are possible," writes Jouary in his book, out this month. He goes on: "You are told you are going to be served spaghetti and you get one strand of pasta which is incredibly long, two meters, which is revealed to be made of Parmesan."
Then he goes on some more. You might find your eyes drifting away from the text and over to the photos: gorgeous renditions of El Bulli's dishes, like spherified olives, the two-meter Parmesan spaghetti, frozen carbon foie gras, Kellogg's paella, and lollipops made with black truffles or meringue-covered fruit (pictured).
In their own small way, each of these so-called molecular-gastronomy experiments radically upended the way we think about food and that thing we call "eating." Some of us who were lucky enough to make it to El Bulli before it closed in 2011 paid an ungodly amount ($500 a head, if memory serves) for a sprawling multi-course dinner that somehow didn't seem overpriced at the time—in the way that a once-in-a-lifetime, paradigm-shattering experience is hard to put a price on. It wasn't dinner. It was grad school, or at least a seminar.
Cronuts are a relative bargain at $5. As for the Jouary book, it's $35—a lot cheaper than Adria's own recently published seven-volume cookbook, "El Bulli 2005-2011."
Salma Abdelnour is the food editor at iVillage. You can follow her on Twitter.