A Day at elBulli
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Dec. 5, 2008
A Day at elBulliby Ferran Adrià Phaidon Press, 600 pp., $49.95
For those in the dark, elBulli (pronounced Boo-yeé), on the Costa Brava just north of Barcelona, is perhaps the best and most creative restaurant in the world. Open for six months of each year and for dinner only, it is definitely the most coveted of all reservations; 8,000 seats receive more than 2 million requests per year, with tables booked a year in advance by lottery. All want to dine on Executive Chef Ferran Adrià's ever-changing 30-course tasting menu, prepared by a brigade of 70-plus chefs.
Phaidon Press is renowned for its art books, and when this title was announced, the buzz was electric. The book offers a revealing behind-the-scenes, hour-by-hour tour of a typical day at elBulli, from 6:15am to locking the door at 2am. At almost 3 inches thick and 600 pages with 1,000 stunning photographs, the book is way too big for the kitchen; instead, it artfully presents an amazing documentary glimpse into the details of the restaurant, from purchasing to prep to production. Of special interest are insights into the creative stages of developing a dish, testing and collaboration, and deciding the presentation.
The reader is in effect a fly on the wall (although I doubt there could be a fly in Adrià's modern, gleaming kitchen/cooking laboratory). Recipes, with extensive notes on finishing and presentation, are presented for 30-plus dishes, including cocktails – not that you would have the scientific equipment or culinary skills necessary to re-create them. Simply put, this book is fascinating and captivating on every level; as elite stage voyeuristic food porn for the creative culinarian, moist knickers are all but guaranteed.