This year marked the third time Ferran Adrià, often called the world's greatest chef after more than two decades of leading Spain's wildly creative El Bulli, visited Miami for a gastronomy congress hosted by Barcelona-based brewery Estrella Damm.
During his much-anticipated, hourlong talk, eyes darted back and forth across the room to see who was there. Some people, though, spent the session engrossed in their phones or squeezed their way through to grab another round of suds.
Perhaps they were dismayed that Adrià didn't bring along his chemistry kit to pop out spherified olives. Instead, he concentrated on the intangible, often-overlooked elements of restaurant development and operations that hint at a place's success or failure before its stoves are ever turned on.
"In hotel restaurants, sometimes the architect designs the space, the dining room, the kitchen, without ever talking to a chef or cook," he said. You only need look at the restaurant space in the Shelborne Wyndham Grand for a concrete example. The space that once housed a Morimoto restaurant and today hosts Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth's Sarsaparilla Club is hidden beyond the hotel's lobby, down a lengthy ramp, and behind the pool.
It might not be what the crowd wanted to hear, but these seemingly invisible elements of restaurants are a major focus of the part of Adrià's career as he plans to open the El Bulli Foundation in the restaurant's revamped home next year. New Times caught up with him a few minutes before his talk to ask him about a few lighter topics, although Adrià couldn't resist putting life into perspective.
New Times: What is your favorite way to cook an egg?
Ferran Adrià: Fried. It's fantastic. It's just genius. It's a minimalism; it's like a ravioli, but fried the Spanish way, with lots of olive oil.
Do you eat junk food?
I usually prefer to eat good food, but sometimes I have to eat anything in order to have some reference. If I eat a marshmallow, I want to eat the best one.
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Who does pasta better, Asia or Italy?
What kind of pasta? Fresh pasta or dry pasta? Filled out or not filled? You understand?
What is your favorite cut of beef to work with?
Do you think the world can keep eating beef given its environmental impacts?
The problem is not if they are going to keep on eating beef. The problem is if the world is going to keep on existing. We can self-destruct ourselves; the energy of nuclear bombs could destroy us all in 20 seconds. When I see what's happening in the world, I don't think that cows are the most important problem. I don't think that the most important is ecology — ecology is for rich people. There are lots of refugees who don't have anything to eat, and 2 billion people are not able to eat anything. When all of that is settled, then we can talk about organic. But this is for a rich people.
Of his own accord, Adrià noted he believes the election of the next American president is still very much up in the air but declined to offer any of his thoughts on the matter. "It's not my country," he said.