“I’m not interested in making a perfect champagne. I just want to make the best champagne.”
Ferran Adrià and Richard Geoffroy have pushed the boundaries of their craft, each in his own way. We met up with these two creative geniuses in Spain.
Barcelona was the place and Dom Pérignon was the host, as representatives from 140 media organizations around the world gathered for the launch of the elBulli Foundation, Dom Pérignon’s 2005 vintage, and the results of a collaborative effort of two unique individuals who think and work on similar wavelengths. On the menu? A tour of the elBulliLab, where high-level creative minds and chefs search for “truths” to culinary theories. This fertile ground has given rise to a research methodology called Sapiens, and birthed Dom Pérignon Decoding, whose purpose it is to explore the universe of the world-famous champagne. Another highlight was an unusual event called “This is not a dinner” (a play on Surrealist artist René Magritte’s painting of a pipe, titled Ceci n’est pas une pipe). A tasting of 30 different hors d’oeuvres was specially crafted by Ferran Adrià to enhance every aspect of the newly released 2005 vintage, introduced by Richard Geoffroy.
Ferran Adrià, ground-breaking chef
Ferran Adrià landed at elBulli restaurant after completing his military service. Within 18 months, he was running the kitchen. With management’s support and encouragement, he travelled in search of new ideas for the menu. His encounter with Jacques Maximin made a lasting impact. “One day, Maximin said, ‘Creativity means not copying.’ At that moment, I understood something I had never really understood before, and I was transformed from technician to creator.”
Adrià became a champion of molecular gastronomy and invented new cooking techniques based on science. This is the man behind deconstructed classics, the one who first used liquid nitrogen, and the creator of culinary foams. El Bulli developed such a reputation that people reserved two years in advance to taste such concoctions as carrot essence, grilled sorbet, parmesan marshmallows, and rose petal tempura. Adrià says that an evening at elBulli was like going to the theatre. “Eating well is something you can do at home,” he adds. “What we offered was an experience based not on what we served, but how and where we served it.” Considered one of the world’s best chefs, not only by food writers but by such culinary luminaries as Joël Robuchon and Paul Bocuse, Adrià earned his restaurant three Michelin stars, and kept it at the top of Restaurant Magazine’s list of best restaurants in the world for four years.
Behind the ego lies an artist, a scientist, a designer, a philosopher, a historian, an anarchist, a humourist, and, sometimes, even a businessman. There are as many faces to Ferran Adrià as there are inventions on his menus. He is known for his gratitude to his team (we witnessed this ourselves at the event), and is equally generous with his culinary peers. His desire to turn elBulli into an educational foundation is eloquent proof.
Richard Geoff roy, mast er of champagne
Richard Geoffroy, the scion of a long line of winegrowers, was born in the heart of Champagne country. Going against a seemingly predestined career, he first took up medicine, only later to return to his roots, via detour that took him through the vineyards of California, where he learned the basics of the wine business. “I’m not sure I would have made a good doctor because I don’t like to fix things,” he has said in the past. “I like things to be perfect from the start. After that, it’s all about building.” His comment makes him the perfect custodian of the Dom Pérignon brand. As Chef de Cave, he is building on the company’s legendary foundations and guiding the creation of each vintage. Like Adrià, he is an architect, an orchestra conductor, a designer, a creator, a philosopher, and an artist. His ambition is to create a masterpiece: “I’m not interested in making a perfect champagne. I just want to make the best champagne,” he once said to a reporter. He became committed to the development of the Dom Pérignon l’OEnothèque, which is how the Plénitude brand and P2 and P3 appellations were born. Geoffroy explains in all humility: “All I did was bring out the truth in the wine. Dom Pérignon is pursuing its own evolution. My pride is to have been able to articulate its message, to explain its relationship to life, and the way it symbolizes serenity, maturity and a lightness of being.” He wants people to discover the wine through a total sensory experience. “Without preconceived notions or taboos, I seek those sensations that make each experience a ceremony of the senses.” This approach aligns perfectly with the vision of Ferran Adrià and the elBulli Foundation, which situates wine – like food – in the context of human history, social evolution, and the heritage of a region.
Ferran Adrià calls the elBulli Foundation a “think tank for creativity.” Over time, it will become an umbrella organization that includes a variety of activities: a museum, a research centre, and a knowledge transfer site. In addition to Decoding Dom Pérignon, a project that will continue over the next three years, the Foundation has also begun to develop the idea for a “restaurant that is not a restaurant” for Cirque du Soleil, and something called Bullipedia, an online encyclopedia project to map all foods and their ingredients. Now that makes us hungry!
en collaboration and Manon Lemire