Reinventing Food: Ferran Adrià: the man who changed the way we eat
by Colman Andrews
Publisher: Phaidon, Country: UK
ISBN: 9780714859057, Year: 2010
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Review

With the doors of elBulli open for only a few months more, the newly curious and hungry must turn to other restaurants to gain insight into the food of one of the most innovative chefs of recent decades, Ferran Adrià. To gain even greater understanding of the innovation, creativity and philosophy of the culinary movement often misleadingly called “molecular gastronomy”, there are a small number of books that provide a window into the world of the restaurant and chef. In addition to A Day at elBulli or the restaurant’s own large, eponymous volumes of recipes, pictures, and creative philosophy, Colman Andrews’s biography of Ferran Adrià is a very valuable picture of the chef, the restaurant and their combined legacy.

Andrews has known Adrià for many years and, as an already respected writer on Spanish and Catalan cooking, seems a good candidate for biographer. Andrews’s writing is fluid and broadly enjoyable, making this book a mostly comfortable and interesting read.

The first chapter of Reinventing Food is entitled “Ferran Adrià and why he matters”. For sceptical readers that might seem reason enough to abandon the book immediately in the face of what could seem like the start of a strongly hagiographic tale. But the author manages to keep his enthusiasm in check most of the time, and despite the title, the chapter is a strong opening to understanding why a chef deserves so much attention and has caused so much controversy. The very first paragraph boldly states both Adrià’s significance and the polarised attitudes towards his person and his ideas.

Andrews paints a sympathetic and informative picture of a chef who, through passion, obsession and creative focus, almost accidentally made the culinary earth move.

The second chapter describes Andrews’s first meal at elBulli. It’s a useful introduction for readers unfamiliar with the food which became so controversial, and also describes the dining experience at this unusual restaurant.

Further chapters explore everything from the history of the restaurant (well established before Adrià arrived, but in a very different form) and its owners, to Adrià’s development as a chef, the evolution of modernist cuisine (as it is now more appropriately called), research and creativity, and the controversies and egos.

It is worth emphasising that readers may come to this book with widely differing expectations. Reinventing Food is a biography of both chef and restaurant, not an analysis of the detailed thoughts that go into the creation of dishes. The author is unashamedly enthusiastic about what Adrià has done, and that may jar with sceptical readers.

Reinventing Food is worth reading both for the interested and the unbelievers. Especially for the latter group, frequently sceptical of modernist cuisine because of the media depiction of it being laboratory food lacking soul but oozing “cleverness”, Reinventing Food might shed more light on what really is significant and fascinating and (perhaps) delicious about so many aspects of Adrià’s contribution to the culinary world. It doesn’t matter whether one likes this approach to food: Colman Andrews has provided the opportunity to understand it better.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 5 stars. Highly recommended
Visual appeal: Unimpressive
Suitability as a gift: If the person is really interested
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