Massimo Bottura and the Adriàs create kitchen alchemy
The elBulli brothers, Ferran and Albert, reunited to cook for Milan's poor at Bottura's Refettorio Ambrosiano
All areas of human endeavour have their dream teams: the world-beating talents of 1970's Brazil National football squad; the lounge-room charm of the Rat Pack; John, Paul, George and Ringo. We can only fantasize about Lennon and McCartney singing together again, or Dino and Sinatra returning to the Sands Hotel and Casino. Yet a few diners at Massimo Bottura's haute cuisine Milanese soup kitchen, Refettorio Ambrosiano, were fortunate enough to bear witness to a stellar culinary reunion.
As Massimo explains in his new book, Bread is Gold, Ferran and Albert Adrià were among the notable chefs to cook at his philanthropic venture, which takes bin-bound ingredients and turns them into healthy, tasty food for the city's poor. Ferran is, of course, still best known for his pioneering work at elBulli, universally regarded as the world's best restaurant up until its closure in 2011. His younger brother Albert was elBulli's pastry chef, and Bottura, who himself had cooked at elBulli for a brief period, and understood how remarkable it was to see the two cook together again. "Ferran and Albert are among the most influential chefs in the world and they had not cooked together for years before cooking at the Refettorio," explains Bottura in the book.
Despite this break, the Adrias were still an innovative duo. The Reffetorio's other chefs concentrated on whatever goods were delivered to the restaurant that day. Ferran, however, asked after the previous chef's leftovers, working these into his meals, turning chicken and stale bread into a Spanish chicken croquette-style soup, and aubergine and potatoes into a delicious ragu. Albert, meanwhile, made his first dessert since leaving elBulli: a rice pudding with roasted apple and honey ice cream.
Bottura and his fellow chefs were delighted to have such hallowed company in the kitchen. However, over a simple pasta lunch, Ferran punctured some of the pomp surrounding high-class cooks. Here's how Bottura remembers this meal.
"Looking around the table Ferran said, “See, we chefs don’t always eat caviar and foie gras. This is the family meal. And this is very interesting for me. We wrote a book called The Family Meal, and we spent three years making menus with the cheapest possible ingredients — without freezing anything and very fast preparations.” It is true. If you care, you can make delicious food with the simplest ingredients. The meal they prepared that day was made with care, even if the ingredients had come from the supermarket surplus or were left over from the night before."
Check back soon for further tales of gastronomic alchemy courtesy of Massimo and his fellow world-famous chefs; you can read about the strawberry gazpacho Daniel Humm conjured out of food waste here; René Redzepi's burnt lime soup here; check out the popcorn chicken recipe Alex Atala created here; and to recreate the recipes and learn more about the ideas behind the Refettorio order a copy of Bread is Gold here.