Photo © Aki Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine
Two weekends ago, chef Ferran Adrià, of El Bulli fame, brought together nearly two-dozen members of the world’s food media to discuss the past, present and future of gastronomy at the Culinary Conclave, held at the 12th-century Spanish hotel and winery Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine (47340 Sardón de Duero; 34-983/680-368; ledomaine.es). Here, Andrés Araya, the event’s organizer and managing director of the hotel (pictured above [right], with Adrià [middle] and chef Andoni Luis Aduriz), shares a few tidbits—from thoughts on how eating has changed to El Bulli’s next big move.
Q: Tell us about some of the most significant gastronomic shifts over the last 20 years that participants noted.
A: They identified historical moments that were gastronomic watersheds in their particular countries that demonstrated how gastronomy affects society, and vice versa. For example, an Italian journalist claimed that the Piedmont wine scandal in 1985 brought a new emphasis on quality that caused both Italian wine making and gastronomy to flower. A British journalist said winning the 1996 European Soccer Championship opened the door to accepting all things British—and notably that British cuisine has validity.
Q: Is there a sense of where the next great culinary hub might be?
A: Rather than one great hub, the consensus was that the quality and awareness of cuisine is rising worldwide, influenced by internationally shared information on everything from the Internet to food shows on television. With the sharing of experiences on social media, we do not need to eat in bad places anymore—and have a good idea of what to expect before we even arrive at a restaurant or destination. A guide such as Michelin that once had a monopoly is losing its importance.
Q: As far as El Bulli, any details on the future plans?
A: Adrià explained that he has been working with top business schools and universities, such as MIT, to help define both how he should present his foundation and safeguard his legacy for the future. The original buildings of El Bulli will be transformed and enlarged, including adding a recreational center, workshop, laboratory, and a permanent exhibition explaining his restaurant’s historical and culinary evolution. The complex is expected to open in March 2016. Another project, called elBulli 1846, after the number of dishes served at the restaurant over the years, will open May 15 in Barcelona, with a research laboratory and a creative team of 40 experts, in not only gastronomy but also other cultural fields. It will continue what was initiated at the Culinary Conclave at LeDomaine, with the main goal being the decoding of gastronomy’s genome. Finally, Bullipedia will be a curated online resource to inspire and teach, as well as provide proper descriptions of what cooking and cuisine are.