Albert Adrià: "When they hear 'Adrià' they expect exploding and flying food"

CNA interviews, Albert Adrià, the dessert chef of El Bulli, which was run by his brother Ferran Adrià and was recognised as the best restaurant in the world on five occasions. BCN 5.0 is the new project by the Adrià brothers, with five different high level restaurants located on Barcelona’s Paral·lel Avenue. Although it is an associative idea, it is a personal dream of Albert Adrià, which has already three restaurants in the same area: Tickets, a Spanish tapas gastrobar; 41º, with one Michelin star, and PAKTA, a Japanese-Peruvian Nikkei one. Three new establishments will complete the BCN 5.0 project.

Júlia Manresa

July 5, 2013 09:40 PM

Barcelona  (CNA).– Albert Adrià went from school directly to El Bulli, and started cooking when he was just 15 years old. “He is the most creative chef I have ever known”, says his brother and associate, Ferran Adrià. Like his brother, Albert did not study in any cooking academy. He has specialised his talents in pastry making when he worked at El Bulli, which was recognised as the best restaurant in the world on five occasions. “I only took part in some occasional workshops in different restaurants to learn specific concepts and techniques”, he explains.

Albert Adrià is 43 years old and is now in the process of cooking his latest project: BCN 5.0. Far from molecular cuisine, the last to be opened was PAKTA, a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant alongside his two other restaurants Tickets and 41º, on Barcelona’s Paral·lel Avenue. However, there are still some missing pieces to finish the BCN 5.0’s puzzle.

While sitting on one of Ticket’s schools with Albert Adrià, a further 17 people are working hard, going up and down the kitchen floor.  

I try to get up every day with a smile on my face and surround myself with people who love and make you love this job. Can you see all them? [Albert asks looking behind the counter] All of them are professionals. They are fully concentrated and believe in what they do. They assume they don’t sell food but happiness, which makes the difference. I am here, having an interview with you and Tickets runs by itself.

How do you manage not to stop innovating?

It is an effort, but it is also our hallmark. When you hear ‘Adrià’ you want creativity. They want exploding and flying food. But we have changed. We are now mixing tradition and innovation. I feel really comfortable in this field. This is the Tickets’ spirit. We like to say that we do ‘suburban high cuisine’. ‘Suburban’s Bulli’, once said a client and I completely agree.

Tickets is a tapas gastrobar, which is a typical Spanish dish.  In what way is your cuisine Catalan?

In everything. I am Catalan. I get inspired by my memories. That is why I am so excited about opening ‘La bodega’, a vermut restaurant. This is very Catalan. That little aperitif with my parents, cockles, crisps and a coke before lunch... My reference is Catalan cuisine, my mother’s cuisine followed by Spanish and international cooking. I have no problem in bringing products from anywhere but we always begin with Catalan ones.

So ‘La Bodega’ is another piece in the Barcelona 5.0 jigsaw puzzle. What is this project about?

I am trying to establish five restaurants with five different concepts, close to each other. There are five restaurants and five associates, the three Iglesias brothers [who have the seafood restaurant ‘Rías de Galícia’ also in Paral·lel], Ferran and I. But overall, this is a personal dream after 28 years of experience. I have the tapas bar, Tickets; the fingerfood one, 41º; the vermut restaurant; the Japanese-Peruvian, PAKTA and we will soon see ‘Yauarkan’, a Mexican restaurant and ‘Enigma’ which is going to be a little restaurant.

Why all these different types of cooking and why so together?

It is simply about market requirements. There is no sense in opening five different restaurants that close down. There are lots of people who spend their holidays doing gastronomy routes. I have to offer different experiences. If I did the same, anyone could do it. That is the challenge. 

There is something intriguing about ‘Enigma’.

My first restaurant was called Enigma and it was inside a hotel. That’s the reason for the name. When El Bulli closed, nobody knew what I could offer, what they were going to eat. I didn’t know what people expected either, so I called the restaurant ‘Enigma’.

Is Enigma the last project you want to do?

I would love to open a traditional Catalan restaurant. But I have to find the person. Traditional cuisine has some problems attached to it. Everyone has got a reference, so you will never do the best dish. On the other hand, if you create a new dish, there is no reference, so you can win. I would also like to open a rice restaurant [in Catalonia there are different ways to cook rice, similar to Paella]. Finally, I would really like to lead a kid’s restaurant, where the child is the king. I would like to show them cooking culture while they play and eat.

Why not?

Ideas are amazing but they are also businesses and you have to make a profit from them. When talking about that crazy restaurant for kids... how do you do that? For example, PAKTA started by losing money. But it doesn’t bother me. First we have to create a routine and calm the team down. Now we know where we are going and what we need.

With 41º you had a Michelin Star, isn’t it profitable either?

It is probably the second most expensive restaurant in Spain but it is not profitable. It is the creative engine of all the others. Instead of having a culinary workshop I have 41º. My whole life has been devoted to high level cooking, and 41º is the link to it. You cannot make profits from haute cuisine, and now it is even worse with the crisis.

So, ‘La Bodega’ is nothing to do with haute cuisine?

I don’t want to do a sophisticate vermut. I don’t want to eat a hamburger in a five star atmosphere. What am I paying for then? If I pay ten euros for a hamburger, it has to be ‘the hamburger’, if not they are cheating you. That is the point. You have to be honest. 

Are you thinking of opening one of these projects abroad?

This gives me a headache at the moment. They don’t find Ferran, so everyone is looking for me. Actually, I bet on BCN 5.0 because this way I don’t have to move to keep control. But these are difficult times and if you want to make money you have to travel abroad.

So there are offers on the table.

Four: Dubai, London, the Dominican Republic and another one in different places at the same time. I would have to find the most comfortable option. I like to have control and this way I would lose it.

In this context of crisis, some critics against the exclusivity of haute cuisine. Have you ever thought of allowing ordinary people to taste your cuisine?

It is my dream but I don’t know how to do it. Democratizing sensibility would be amazing, but I cannot manage to do so. I would love to bring my concepts to public places like airports or shopping centres but when it is about fast and cheap cooking I am not good at all.