A world-renowned Spanish chef has submitted his notes and sketches for an art exhibit. Except that the exhibit is not really about food, and it’s also not exactly art—which all seems perfect for a chef whose work disdains the status quo.
Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity is open now through January 3, 2016 in the Target Wing galleries at Mia. The two-room display showcases the visual creativity and philosophical inquiry that made Adrià’s elBulli the world’s premiere stage for culinary innovation.
“This is not about the aesthetics of the drawings,” explains Brett Littman, executive director of The Drawing Center NY and curator of the exhibit. “Ferran is not a very good renderer. The drawings are very childlike. If you evaluate this show on aesthetics, it will fail. If you want to evaluate it on ideas, it’s one of the most interesting shows you’ll see all year.”
What do people truly experience at restaurants? What’s the purpose of fine dining? What even is cooking? Adrià’s approach to cuisine could be called “relentless suspicion”. The exhibit details the journey of an unconstrained autodidact who catalogued, contextualized, and then changed the food world through visual interpretation.
“He’s a researcher, the most analytical person I’ve ever met,” says Littman. “There wasn’t a dish at elBulli that didn’t go through 400 iterations.” This type of thinking is on display with Ferran’s encyclopedic list of produce availability, which he coupled with ways they could be manipulated (creamed? foamed? sautéed? sous-vide?). The matrix of possibilities is staggering.
From there, it’s off to the drawing board. “He likes to draw. Ferran is a visual thinker,” says Littman. “He wouldn’t be the chef he is today unless he embraced all forms of visual thinking.” At times, he’d reverse-engineer dishes from a vision of how the plate should look. He doodled the entire creative process into a flow chart.
Thus the exhibit is not so much about Adrià’s food, but then again, neither was elBulli. It has more to do with the exploration of experience and the demonstration of possibility.
“This show is important for anyone who is creative, graphic designer, engineer, industrial designer, artist or chef. It’s not about food, It’s really about a broad way of thinking and putting things together,” Littman explains. “For Ferran, this has become the core, organizing activity of the many things he thinking about. It’s about ways of unlocking human creativity. elBulli had practical concerns as a restaurant, but he used it as a laboratory to challenge people to be creative.”