by student blogger Kristin Ever wonder what it would be like to eat lunch with one of your heroes? Well, on Wednesday March 12th, I found out. I was nominated and chosen along with 14 other highly commendable students to eat lunch with none other than the world famous Chef Ferran Adrià, head chef of El Bulli restaurant in Spain and an overall father of the deconstruction movement. Being a student in the new Culinary Science Bachelor’s degree program, I not only look up to Chef Adrià but recognize all the hard work he has put in to make what I do and learn on a daily basis possible. Needless to say, I was thrilled to find out I had been picked and knew this would be the chance of a lifetime.
The fifteen of us met and cycled into The Bocuse Restaurant on campus and waited excitedly to see the man we had all been waiting for. He walked into the dining room and immediately set up for a photo shoot, a routine he seems used to before eating meals. As I watched him pose frame for frame, I was already impressed. Everything about him exuded intelligence, from his stature to the way he dressed and especially in the way he interacted with those around him. He was serious and driven to finish the task ahead, even if it were just a photo shoot.
After our turn taking pictures with Ferran, we were all invited to take our respective seats. We all sat around a long table that was separate from the rest of the dining room. Each place setting was clearly marked with the name of the guest being honored at the luncheon. Almost every seat at the table had a clear view of Chef Adrià, who was seated in the middle of the table. Personally, I was seated across the table and a few seats down from Ferran. This was perfect because I was on the side of the table which Ferran’s translator, Sofia Perez, sat towards.
I sat patiently through the general introductions for the chance to hear what Ferran Adrià had to say. But when it was his time to speak, something unexpected happened. There was a lag in the conversation and the room fell silent. I looked up to find Chef Adrià deep in thought, plotting out every word he was about to say. He again impressed me with just how wise he was, and I hadn’t even heard the man speak yet!
When he did finally speak, world famous Chef Ferran Adrià did not disappoint. He opened the luncheon with an in depth explanation of his philosophy. To my surprise, however, this was not just a philosophy on food but also his philosophy on life and learning. I was in awe listening to him. I knew that Ferran Adrià must be an intelligent man but I never realized just how much of a scholar he is. He studies all different topics and finds ways to apply what he can to the world of food. He discussed science, mathematics, engineering, and many other fields of study as past inspirations for his work. Most importantly, however, Chef Ferran made a connection between the food industry and history. He is a firm believer that everything must be documented in order to make progress in the future. If we do not, what is to stop us from going in circles?
We all began to ponder the many things that Chef Adrià had just told us when he quickly turned the tables on us. “What else, what is it you want to know?” he asked. “You”, he said while pointing to the student directly across from him, “what is your question for me?” Though we all looked shocked at the abruptness of Chef Adrià opening up the floor, we were all ready with questions and took turns to ask them. With each question, Ferran’s answers became more and more enthusiastic. It was not until a question from another student that I understood just why this was.
“After all that you’ve been through and all the lessons you have learned, what now do you draw inspiration from?” Instead of a long-winded answer about all of the grandeur that he experiences on a daily basis, Chef Ferran Adrià simply raised both hands and motioned towards all of us. “This.” he said, “You all are what inspires me.” I was so moved by this answer that I almost did not believe my ears. But, sure enough, Chef Adrià went on to explain that we were the future of the industry and the potential we hold is inspiring. Though all of the knowledge Ferran Adrià shared with us during the luncheon was great, hearing one of your heroes tell you that your generation has the potential to do great things was priceless.
In what seemed like ten seconds lunch was over, and we were all retiring to Chef Adrià’s lecture for the afternoon. I took my seat amongst the other 799 students and watched as Ferran Adria climbed on stage, took out his phone and snapped pictures of the 800 people taking pictures of him. Although I had always been a fan, having lunch with Ferran Adrià gave me a newfound respect for him not only as a chef but as a person. It is at times such as these that I am extremely proud to call myself a student at The Culinary Institute of America.