If you're in London this weekend we strongly urge to get down to elBulli: Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food which opens today at Somerset House and is an absolute corker of a show if you're even remotely interested in high end gastronomy. It’s a newly curated and reconfigured version of the exhibition that opened in Barcelona last year and looks set to be one of the most well-attended shows in London this summer. The Barcelona exhibition was seen by over 700,000 visitors.
We caught up with Ferran at the press view yesterday. After wishing everyone a good morning he kicked off a brief talk by apologising for his lack of English.
"In Catalonia we have a football coach called Pep Guardiola," he began. "He’s the most important football coach in Catalan history and he learned German in four months! I think I should do the same with English because I come to London so often. It’s a bit shameful for me not to speak English!"
After his thank you speech in which he paid tribute to the people who’d supported him “for nursing a project that at first seemed to be a bit mad” we caught up with Ferran and through his interpretor, he told us a little more about the thinking behind the Somerset House show which runs until September.
“It’s the first exhibition in history about a restaurant. So it’s a risk! People have written thousands of pages about elBulli but it’s very difficult to understand what exactly happened there. Why are we here doing an exhibition? Because this is what we want to tell. Bulli is not Ferran Adrià, it’s a spirit that will carry on with the foundation and this is what we want to tell with this exhibition.”
The exhibition features a giant maquette of the elBulli Foundation museum and visitor centre which is to be called elBulli 1846. Why 1846 we asked. “Well it’s not because elBulli was born that year!” he said. “It’s actually the number of dishes that were listed during the whole history of elBulli."
Also when we investigated further we realised that it's also the year that August Escoffier, the most important cook in the last 150 years, was born. So we wanted to pay tribute to all the people who had done things before us. elBulli has probably the reputation as the most innovative restaurant in the last century - not Ferran - elBulli - but we have always had huge respect for the past and that’s what we want to explain in this exhibition.
elBulli: Ferran Adrià and The Art of Food charts the evolution of elBulli and does so exhaustively - forensically even. It features in-depth, multimedia displays, the various high and low-tech implements used in the kitchen, sketches made by Ferran and the team which reveal the inner workings of their thought processes. A number of models, a film made by the late pop artist Richard Hamilton at the restaurant, plasticene models of the food which were made for all the dishes served as a means for quality control of colour, portion size and position on the plate.
In addition there are of course the various bullis made for the restaurant over the years, extensive videos and photographic archives, original tasting menus, cutlery laid on the tables and salivating shots of the creations taken from the catalogue we will be publishing next year (you can read more about that here) and much more. Like the Bowie exhibition at the V&A it really does reveal every strand of DNA that went into creating the elBulli legend and legacy. Check out our elBulli-related books and (if you're in the UK) watch Ferran on Newsnight.