Ferran Adria is deep in conversation. Beside him, two heads are bowed, tall men in crisp tunics with hands that never stop moving as they confer back and forth, back and forth, discussing brisk details with the head chef himself. Their eyes focus on powder and foam, their ears belong to Adria.
We’re in a kitchen, so I presume we’re looking at food – perhaps quail eggs, perhaps not – but I’ve never seen gelatinous puddles receive so much attention. Still, when that kitchen belongs to the best restaurant in the world, every detail counts.
I’m in the El Bulli restaurant in northeast Spain being totally, thoroughly and utterly ignored – which is just the way I like it.
It gives me a sense of the way this place really works. Lines of metallic desks, navy and white uniforms, wide windows, artificial lights and furrows of concentration. Disposable plastic gloves, hair tied back, no laughter. It reminds me of a final exam in chemistry.
Hands whip emulsions, curate foam, fashion pastes and tend to leaves. Eyes check temperatures, watch for menisci and flicker away from the food only when absolutely necessary. It is surprisingly quiet, surprisingly studious and surprisingly sterile. Where’s the hissing, the fizzing, the sizzling, the textbook mouthwatering aromas?
An A4 ringbinder rammed with notes supports two dishes right in front of me, above which Adria brandishes a pair of tweezers to emphasize his point. They’re probably not tweezers, I realise, the word forceps bubbling up from my surgical days. Yet whatever they’re called, they’re making an impression.
He lays them down, turns towards us and smiles – and the interview begins.
To be continued…
How did I get here? Read Inside the World’s Best Restaurant
Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. Now published by Lonely Planet, the BBC, CNN, National Geographic Traveler & more, she feels most at home experimenting here: covering unusual journeys, thoughtful travel and luxury on www.insidethetravellab.com