Very few people can claim to be the beginning of a cultural revolution. Even fewer chefs. But such was the impact of Ferran Adrià’s revolutionary restaurant elBulli that you can spot his influence everywhere from gastronomy, to architecture through to popular culture (check out Ferran’s cameo in The Simpsons if you don’t believe me.)
When you begin to quantify the success of Ferran’s three Michelin starred restaurant elBulli you can start to feel more than a little bit inadequate. ElBulli was named the best restaurant in the world a record five times, it received 2 million requests for a table in 2011 alone and there were 6,000 applications for every stage, or internship, offered in its kitchen. It was, by all accounts, the most influential restaurant the world has probably ever seen – right up to the point when Ferran made headlines all over the world by shutting up shop last year. The sound of foodies weeping into their spheriphied parmesan globules could be heard from here to Timbuktu. ‘Globules’ is a really disgusting word. Soz.
These days, Adrià is dedicating his time to innovation in a series of typically ambitious projects, culminating in the launch of the elBulli foundation. The foundation, which is set in the extended grounds of old restaurant in Spain, will archive recipes on site and online (through Bullipedia) and will act as a creative centre inviting collaborators to come up with new, ground breaking ideas in and around food. He’ll be taking applications from collaborators – around fifteen per season of mostly chefs, but there are also five spots from other creative disciplines like design, audio-visual and architecture. There’s an app too, which is produced by Telefonica and will be based on Ferran’s best-selling cookbook “La comida de familia” (family cookbook). It will be a step-by-step guide on how to produce the simple food eaten by the staff at elBulli, so it’s a great place to start for any budding Michelin-starred chefs.
And there’s more good news! GoThinkBig tracked down the foody-genius himself and got him to give you guys seven business tips. That’s right - you now have access to insider info from the best restaurateur in the whole blinking world. We’re just give, give, give, give, give. You can thank us later.
1.) Know when to evolve
“This is a very difficult issue, because every business is different and it depends on many things. There is not a single rule. The only important thing is to have the ability of getting five years ahead of what will happen - otherwise changes you make to your business will be a real tsunami. Throughout the history of elBulli there have been frequent changes in the organisation or in the philosophy representing important moments in the evolution of the restaurant: the winter closure, the birth of the workshop, the decision to remove the traditional restaurant menu, to do only one service closing for lunch and now creative centre.”
2.) Treat your staff well
“Unlike a lot of restaurants, at elBulli the staff were always well fed – it’s logical to think that in the kitchen of a restaurant we have to eat well. My philosophy on this regard is very clear: if you do not take care of yourself and the people working with you, you can’t take care of your clients. It's consequent. And, as I always say ‘to eat well feeds the soul’.”
3.) Embrace new technology and methods
“Many people were commenting on the ‘new technology’ that we used at elBulli – but liquid nitrogen is not a new technology, it is simply a new product. Some people are afraid of new things, while there are others who do not and who want to take a risk. Everyone can adopt new techniques - there are people who are quite conservative in politics, but still progressive in their business and willing to take many risks.”
4.) Know your market
“You can’t underestimate the importance of changing your approach for different markets. For instance, we know that one way of cooking is for the professional kitchen, but there is another way for the home. For instance, it’s normal that a restaurant with a 10 € menu can’t offer organic chicken, while in one of 200 € it would be, somehow, an obligation. We cater for both these realms and alter our approach accordingly – Bullipedia for the professional realm and the app for home cooking.”
5.) Be logical
“The best piece of business advice I have ever been given is to always act logically, even when being creative. This is not synonymous with being conservative - in fact sometimes it is just the opposite. There are times when logic tells us to be more cautious, but other it tells us to take a risk.”
6.) Study the history of your job
“If you do not know or do not understand what happened in your discipline, you can’t evolve. And this is not only in cuisine. It is impossible to conceive an architect, an artist or an engineer who wants to be innovative without being unaware of their environment. You have to know your history, otherwise all you will do is to copy what already exists.”
7.) Everyone must make use of young people
“All good businesses need experience combined with youth and people must make an effort to recruit the young. This combination can only improve – and in all the cases I have seen it always gives great results.”