Interview: Ferran Adria
On April 3, one of the most anticipated auctions of the season was held at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. An impressive consignment of fine wines and memorabilia were sold, raising over HK$14 million for The El Bulli Foundation (see our round-up of the auction results here). Spanish chef Ferran Adria himself was in town in the run-up to the event, to oversee both the auction and lend support to the opening of Catalunya restaurant in Wan Chai, headed by his protégé Alain Devahive Tolosa, who worked with Adria at El Bulli prior to its closure. We had a brief chat with Adria at the restaurant on the eve before the auction.
Hong Kong Tatler Dining: On the eve of the Sotheby’s auction of elBulli’s wines and memorabilia stretching back over so many years, how are you feeling?
Ferran Adria: To be honest, I feel very excited and very glad because all the money is for the setting up of El Bulli Foundation. There’s no hint of sorrow at all. All the money we will get is for a bigger cause – it’s for the legacy of El Bulli. It will last for years and many people will benefit from it.
HKTD: What object in the auction is the hardest to let go of, emotionally?
FA: If I had to choose just one object it would be the chef jacket I wore during the last night of service at El Bulli. It has a very deep and personal meaning for me.
HKTD: In the end, it is interesting to think about the value we put into collecting restaurant memorabilia – are there any trinkets that you yourself have collected from restaurants you have dined at over the years?
FA: I’m not really a good collector. However, I have two or three chefs in the world I really admire and recently, someone gave me a very touching present. It was an autographed book by Escoffier. I’ll put in a very special place for sure.
HKTD: The El Bulli connection is still a strong recommendation for chefs opening in Hong Kong, and Catalunya is of course one restaurant with this link. But how do you hope the restaurant will shine in its own way?
FA: I’m convinced Catalunya restaurant will do fantastic work in its own way. There are already a bunch of highly qualified Spanish chefs around the world that make me feel proud of Spanish cuisine overseas. In the coming five years I’m sure we will see around 20 high-end Spanish restaurants in Hong Kong. And of course, Catalunya, with Alain Devahive Tolosa at the front, is one of them.
HKTD: Has anyone else’s cooking caught your eye in Hong Kong?
FA: It’s complicated to know because the variety of Cantonese and Chinese cuisine is extensive and it takes time to understand it properly. I wouldn’t mind moving to Hong Kong or China for a period of time to experience the textures and flavours of its exquisite and sophisticated cuisine.
HKTD: What’s the best Chinese meal you've ever eaten?
FA: The roasted suckling pig is something absolutely amazing for me. The roasted skin is marvelous. Absolutely unforgettable.
HKTD: What are the food trends you hate? Or the food trends that you love?
FA: I don’t hate or love any of them. I try to learn from all of them.
HKTD: Lastly, we have to know – who do you want to play you in the El Bulli movie?
FA: As far as I know, they are already looking for an actor to play me. Spanish actor Javier Bardem and Robert Downey Jr. are among the preferences. I myself have no idea. The only thing I know is that he will have a hard time because the way I speak, my tics, and the way I move my hands and my body language is not easy to replicate. Besides that, I wouldn’t mind having a cameo in the movie as well!
Find out more about Catalunya, and watch out for our review of the restaurant in the coming weeks
Photography by King Fung