I may not have managed to get a table at the fabled El Bulli before it finally closed its doors to the paying public, although I still relish my rejection letter, but I have been lucky enough to experience something of the legend by visiting the recent exhibition at Somerset House.
It was an interesting experience, although not in the way that I expected from the people behind the five time best restaurant in the world. It began with a history lesson, the restaurant was everything from a crazy golf course to a michelin starred destination well before Ferran Adria arrived. The rest of the exhibition, though, was more akin to a business school lecture on the process of creativity - unsurprising really, as Adria is currently a visiting lecturer at the Harvard Business School.
His avant garde approach was to throw away the cook books and focus on learning new techniques rather than recipes as he believes every new technique leads to a thousand potential new dishes (e.g. the invention of puff pastry created as many fruit tart recipes as there are varieties of fruits). This approach, allowed El Bulli to offer a constantly changing 50 course tasting menu. Reviewing the list of new techniques pioneered by the El Bulli team over the years demonstrates this in amazing clarity, from the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze ice creams, dehydration techniques to create fruit pastas and spherification to name just a few.
I took the El Bulli ethos on board and left clutching a magic kit allowing me to create warm jellies, flavoured "airs" and liquid cherries. Let's see if any of the Ferran Adria spirit has rubbed off...