A BEGINNING. AN END
It all began with Ferran Adria in more ways than one. It was because he reached out to me in 2001, invited me to come see him (in spite of the fact that I had written unflatteringly of him in Kitchen Confidential) that my partnership with zero point zero production began. It was because he agreed to throw his life, his restaurant, his workshop and creative process open to our cameras that we began our first venture in independent television production. It was because of him–and Food Network’s lack of interest in an El Bulli show–that Chris Collins, Lydia Tenaglia and I went out on our own, reached into our pockets and funded that first bare bones trip to Spain to shoot what later became the film (and subsequent episode of No Reservations), “Decoding Ferran Adria”. It was Ferran, who, truth be told, became the impetus for our show, now in its 7th year. And it was Ferran who was responsible for my meeting Chef Jose Andres when he showed up at an early screening of the film as his US representative. I can well remember Jose standing up at the end of the film and announcing to the audience his approval. It was a very proud moment for me. In those days, when Jose’s mouth moved, it often seemed that Spain was speaking. That kind of generosity should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever known or worked with Ferran Adria or his brother, Albert. They have always shared, never clung jealously to their hard won creations. And once again, in spite of the world world banging at their door, looking to get one last meal, one last interview, one last meal at their legendary restaurant, once again, they opened their lives to me.
It peeves me beyond reason to read unknowing people describe El Bulli as “fancy”, or “pretentious” or ” snobby.” Nothing could have been further from the truth. For a third of my last meal there, we ate with our hands. There were no elaborate table settings. It was never a particularly expensive restaurant by European standards–especially three star Michelin ones. Best I can tell, they never even operated at a profit. Jackets and ties were never required. If it was ”exclusive”, that was only because millions more people wanted to eat there than their 50 odd seats could accommodate. Yet, somehow,tables were made available on a regular basis for fishmongers, bartenders and cooks from the neighboring town of Roses. If sous chefs from Chicago to Sydney seemed, magically, to receive the kind of treatment usually reserved for government ministers and oligarchs, it speaks all the better of them.
I don’t know if Monday’s episode is the best depiction of what the Adrias did at El Bulli–though I’m pretty damn sure it is. I do know that our producers and camera people and editors and post production people went all out–did their very best work. This show was a labor of love and much gratitude. We were determined to get it right.
We shot in Hospitalet, the town near Barcelona where the brothers grew up. We shot the staff meal at El Bulli. It was insisted I work the line a bit–to get a better idea of what’s really involved in getting those amazing creations to the table.
We shot the single greatest restaurant meal of my life–and one of the very last to be served there. We shot at Tickets, the more casual restaurant in Barcelona which, by the time you read this, will be the only place you can eat the food of an Adria brother.
We shot–and will show you–what’s next for El Bulli, which closes as a restaurant any minute now–forever. You will see the animations and blueprints of the entity to come–and hear Ferran describe his plans for the future.
And, to a great extent, you will see all of this through the eyes of Jose Andres, who began his career as a young cook at El Bulli, and who joined me for an unforgettable careen through Catalonia, eating and drinking and enjoying life as one can, it seems, only in his presence. I’m still recovering. Jose alone would be reason enough to watch this show. By the time you see the show, what you will be watching will be history.