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The El Bulli Exhibit: Creativity as Organized Process


El Bulli Plating Diagrams

The Drawing Center is hosting Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity, the first major museum exhibition of Adrià’s notebooks and visualization tools. As you may know, Adrià is widely acknowledged as one of the best chefs of our time, someone who radically impacted the way cooking has evolved in the last decade or so. For over two decades, he helmed the kitchen at El Bulli in Roses, Spain, where his staff rigorously experimented with the play of aromas, textures and flavors. You may never have an opportunity to try Adrià’s spherified olives, pine nut marshmallows or rose-scented mozzarella, especially since El Bulli is now closed. However, if you’ve ever encountered a traditional dish remade in another form (like a sandwich presented as a drink) or a contemporary menu without defined categories (appetizers vs entrees), you’ve probably tasted Adrià’s influence.

Gastronomy Creative Process

The popular conception of creativity is that creative insight just happens, out of the blue, in the shower, or when you’re least expecting it. In Adrià’s eyes, the creative process is not really about spontaneity, it is an extremely organized process. El Bulli was tasked with preparing 30+ dishes per diner each night, with the goal of never serving the same dinner twice, particularly for repeat customers. The pressure to constantly come up with new and innovative dishes was immense. While some of El Bulli’s dish concepts were created spontaneously and inadvertently, more often the creative process looked like this:

We search (using a method):

Regional cooking as a style
Influences from other cuisines
Technique-concept search
The senses as a starting out point for creativity
The sixth sense
Symbiosis of the sweet/savoury worlds
Commercial products and preparations in haute cuisine
A new way of serving food
Changes in the structure of dishes
Changes in menu structure


We develop the idea with the help of methods or with intuition


Analysis/Reflection — We use the mental palate

Finish and final tests = PROTOTYPE

Serving the diner

Final retouches


El Bulli Dishes

If you attend the exhibit, don’t forget to check out the film screening downstairs, which includes a photo of every dish served at El Bulli.

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