Welcome to my next entry in this guide to the Netflix show Chef’s Table. Today I’m covering the last episode in Volume 5, which follows chef Albert Adrià. Previously in this volume, we had a chance to meet chef Bo Songvisava, who presents authentic Thai cuisine from her Bangkok eatery, as well as Musa Dağdeviren, who seeks to serve and preserve traditional Turkish cuisine. Episode 1 of Volume 5 dealt with chef and illegal immigrant Cristina Martinez, who serves traditional Mexican barbacoa from her Philly restaurant.
And now for something totally different.
If you’re a foodie, you may have heard of Ferran Adrià, head chef of now-shuttered restaurant El Bulli. In the early 2000s, El Bulli rose to claim the title of the most cutting-edge, most avant garde restaurant in the world. As a result, Ferran became one of the most famous chefs in the world. Today, he’s still numbered among the most influential culinary geniuses to have graced the face of the earth.
His brother, Albert Adrià, doesn’t make the list.
Albert Adrià is also the subject of today’s episode, and this is why his story is different from the others in Volume 5. His is a more cerebral tale, fraught with rivalry and lingering, embittered feelings. If the previous three episodes were culinary folktales, this is a culinary drama.
Albert also creates some of the most beautiful food on the planet, as you can probably discern from the photo gallery. Gorgeous, gorgeous food.
As a child, he never saw his brother Ferran much. Ferran, eight years older than him, was always busy working at El Bulli. When Albert became old enough to seek work, he went down the obvious road.
He started off as a pastry chef. His brother’s pastry chef.
Who’s to say which of the brothers is real culinary genius? More likely than not, both are. But in this episode of Chef’s Table, culinary insiders say that Albert Adrià, not Ferran, was the one behind many of El Bulli’s most iconic masterpieces. According to them, Albert was much more than Ferran’s pastry chef. Albert was the beating heart of El Bulli, the creative conduit. Working in his brother’s taller (pronounced tai-air, translates to workshop), he sentenced himself to a life of permanent creativity. His brain never switched off.
It might not surprise you that he burnt himself out eventually. In 2008, he quit El Bulli and left to pursue his own work, writing his second solo book and directing a documentary. If you haven’t caught on yet, this guy is smart. And he abounds with a rare kind of intuitive, inborn creativity, beautiful creativity.
Eventually, he opened Tickets, an avant garde tapas bar in Barcelona. Today, Tickets holds a Michelin star. Eating a meal at Tickets is like going on an adventure through the magical and bizarre. Albert, a fan of the circus and magic, sought to recreate a playful, circus-like, childhood-evoking atmosphere in Tickets. He fuses the discoveries he made at El Bulli with a new brand of cooking and eating.
Towards the end of the episode, the filmmakers ask Albert if he’s scared of being forgotten. He pauses a moment and then says, “Well, yes.” Despite his monumental culinary achievements, his brother’s name usually takes the cake — in documentaries, magazines, and in the news.
Somewhere along the line, Albert realized he wanted to stand up for su propio nombre, his own name.
But he still collaborates with his brother. As this episode puts it, they’re “brothers beyond blood.” Just as they’ve pushed modernist cuisine to new levels of beauty, they’ve pushed the meaning of brotherhood to the extreme. Their relationship recognizes both rivalry and the ties that bind.
Learn more about Albert Adrià and his culinary empire with this 2017 Eater interview.
Y si hables español, puedes ver uno de los libros de Albert Adrià aquí en Amazon. Se llama Tapas: La cocina del Tickets.