“Ser cuiner és la meva forma d’entendre la vida, amb compromís”: entrevista a Sergi de Meià

Recentment reconegut com a millor cuiner jove del 2009 per l’Academia Catalana de Gastronomia, destaca per la seva convicció en el producte de proximitat, en el respecte pels productors i en l’equip.

P ocs xefs han demostrat, amb 30 anys, una fidelitat als seus princi- pis i una sòlida tècnica tan perso- nal com la de Sergi de Meià, con destacava l’Acadèmia Catalana de Gas- tronomia en l’exposició dels motius pels que ha atorgat al responsable dels fo- gons del Monvínic el Premi Nacional de Gastronomia al cuiner jove del 2009. Pregunta. Per què és cuiner? Resposta. És una cosa que porto dintre, de petit ja cuinava pels amics. A casa, s’ha cuinat i menjat molt bé. Tot el que menjavem tenia nom i cognoms. D’aquí el projecte d’ensenyar a Monvínic qui hi ha darrere de tot. Ser cuiner es la meva for- ma d’entendre la vida, amb compromís.

P. És veritat que truca a la mare o l’à-via quan té dubtes d’una recepta?

R. I tant, qui millor que elles. En cuina catalana, no tenen rival. Sense la iaia Ade- laida i la meva mare que es diu igual, jo no seria on sóc. La sensibilitat pel que és bo i ben fet em ve de la mare i de l’àvia.

P. Què ha fet que Sergi de Meià sigui cuiner jove de l’any?

R. La convicció en el producte de proximitat; el respecte pels productors; els punts de cocció i la perseverança en un ideal de cuina; l’equip; el respecte a la cuina catalana; treballar amb l’estacionalitat…

P. Sergi de Meià, se’n diu o se’n fa dir?

R. Me’n faig dir des de fa 8 anys. Els creatius de Reno, restaurant on vaig portar la cuina, van dir-me que “company Castells”era massa llarg. Van preguntar-me què era el que més m’agradava al món i, clar, vaig dir Vilanova de Meià

P. Quina relació manté amb el poble?

R. Moltíssima, hi pujo sempre que puc. M’agradaria fer de Vilanova de Meià un referent en ecoagronomia.

P. Quan es diu Vilanova de Meià, ve al cap la Fira de la Perdiu. Què suposa per a vostè aquesta fira?

R. És el dia gran, el dia en què som la capital de la perdiu, de la Noguera, la pena es que cada cop hi ha menys gent que es dediqui a criar perdius o aviram. Cal ajudar a recuperar varietats locals i a que els productors es guanyin la vida.

P. Quin paper té la caça a la seva cuina?

R. Molt gran, al començar la temporada, em poso a les mans dels caçadors, ells decideixen què cuinem: becades, perdius, conills, llebres, tords, senglars, tudons. Des de petit havia anat amb el iaio Emilio, o amb el tiet Mañé a caçar i amb la caça vaig aprendre a respectar la natura.

P. Quin contacte manté amb els pro-ductors sobre què entra a la seva cuina?

R. Parlo cada setmana amb tots, no només per la comanda, per com estan, la família, el camp, les previsions… Amb el meu fill, Oleguer, els anem a visitar perquè vegi on creix tot. El bon producte és la peça més important de la cuina.

P. Quin és el plat que menja més sovint?

R. Menjo de tot, però les verdures em tornen boig. Només menjo estacionalitat. Tant a la feina com a casa, no mengem res que no sigui del país, net o ecològic, i si puc saber qui hi ha al darrere millor.


Divulgació de la cultura del vi

Monvínic  és  un  centre  divulgador  de  la cultura  i  l’estudi  del  vi,  on  hi  ha  molts espais (biblioteca, wine-bar, sala de tas- tos,   espai   culinari).   L’aposta   és   acon- seguir   que   el   món   dels   vins   d’arreu estigui lligat amb els nostres productes, diu Sergi de Meià, que per això fa  “cuina amb  amor,  passió  i  dedicació,  i  arrels”. Entre   els   seus   plats   hi   ha   estofat   de cigrons de l’alta Anoia, anguila del Delta amb espàrrecs del Maresme, perdius de la Noguera o peix de la Costa Brava.



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Kitchen Gods

David Chang was asleep in his aisle seat on a recent flight to Melbourne when searing pain jolted him awake: a flight attendant had accidentally spilled boiling water on his arm. That the worst scalding of the Manhattan megachef’s life occurred in business class rather than in a busy kitchen was perhaps surprising. But that was nothing compared with what awaited him on the ground. Soon after he landed, news of the accident made the Australian papers and then, thanks to the global hum of diligent foodies at their keyboards, quickly appeared on websites around the world. The shocking headline: “Chef Burned.”

It’s been a few decades since we started turning cooks into stars, and still the phenomenon continues to grow. These days, the Emerils, Marios and Gordons of the world scarcely need the qualifier chef — they are celebrities, plain and simple. But between the television shows, the food festivals, the Vegas outposts, the spaghetti-sauce labels bearing their names and the fans rabidly tracking everything from new dishes to failed love affairs and, yes, accidental airline injuries, it’s easy to overlook the impact that fame has had on the once disparaged profession of cooking. In the Food Network era, the phenomenon of the celebrity chef has utterly transformed the restaurant industry and, in the process, changed the very nature of how we eat. (See TIME’s photo-essay “How Culinary Culture Became a Pop Phenomenon.”)

There’s a reason restaurant food sales in the U.S. have jumped from $42.8 billion in 1970 to a projected $520 billion in 2010, and it’s not just that more women have entered the workforce. As best-selling food author Michael Pollan recently noted, the age of the TV chef has coincided with a dramatic decline in home cooking. Pollan, who was named by TIME as one of this year’s 100 most influential people in the world — as was Chang — argued that by making food a spectacle, shows like Iron Chef and The F Word have reinforced the message that cooking is best left to the professionals. By turning chefs into entertainers — whether performing onscreen or via the impeccable platings in their restaurants — we have widened the breach between ourselves and the once ordinary task of cooking.

And yet our alienation from food and its preparation is matched only by our obsession with it. Huge parts of the population now seek out artisanal cheeses at their local farmers’ markets, and run-of-the-mill restaurants attempt to cater to their newly refined tastes, serving salads made of fancy lettuce. Lots of ordinary folk now aspire to have their own $1,100 Thermomix food processor and blog about every course of every restaurant meal they eat. (The camera-happy movement has gotten so bad that Grant Achatz, the famously avant-garde chef of Chicago’s Alinea, recently chastised diners who take photos — and video — of the food he serves.) These trends are fed by chefs’ newfound prominence but also prod them to attain ever greater influence. In a world in which what and how we eat have become fetishized, celebrity chefs are finding new ways to harness their star power — and not just to make money. (See three of David Chang’s recipes.)

The Start of the Rock-Star Chef
The term Foodie was coined in the early 1980s, at about the same time Wolfgang Puck began serving gourmet pizzas at his buzzy Spago restaurant in Los Angeles. But it took another decade before Puck really kicked off the celebrity phenomenon by turning his attention to the culinary desert that was Las Vegas. At the time, everyone thought he was crazy. Crazy, too, the cable channel (today’s Food Network) that launched a few months later in 1993, in the remarkable belief that audiences would watch round-the-clock food programming. The same adjective would also apply across the ocean, to Britain’s enfant terrible Marco Pierre White, who by 1995 had not only become the youngest chef to earn three Michelin stars but also had a reputation for ejecting customers who were critical of his food. “Those stories you heard about him, about how he would be shagging someone’s wife upstairs while her husband was eating in the dining room downstairs,” says Jay Rayner, restaurant critic for the British newspaper the Observer, “that was the start of the rock-star chef.”

It’s not that there weren’t famous cooks before then. As far back as the 19th century, Europe’s aristocracy was agog about Marie-Antoine Carême’s elaborate dishes. And within more recent memory, Julia Child used television to help turn America’s housewives on to the glories of the French table and to turn herself into a star. But none of that comes close to the renown of today’s celebrity chefs, which can be attributed not only to the multiple restaurants and bad-boy personas but also to Food Network. Today the channel averages a million viewers a day and is so popular that in late May it launched a culinary spin-off called Cooking Channel, whose programming will include new shows with Bobby Flay and Emeril Lagasse. Culinary programs are also populating major networks like Fox, which this month began airing its seventh season of Hell’s Kitchen. In that show, Gordon Ramsay, the five-continent chef whose offscreen empire includes restaurants in Dubai and Cape Town, berates low-skill contestants into becoming better cooks. Ramsay and Bravo’s popular Top Chef series have prompted NBC and CBS to prep their own reality-kitchen shows.

The Internet has also played an important role: on websites like Grub Street (1 million page views per day) and Eater (2 million), chef groupies can breathlessly track every charity event and opening — sometimes before the chef has gone public with the news. A whole subindustry of agents and publicists has sprung up to manage everything from a chef’s media appearances to his hairstyle. And, yes, the chefs are mostly hes: although women are entering the profession in ever greater numbers, the vast majority of celebrity chefs are male.

All the fawning has propelled a profession once considered little better than servitude to the ranks of the glamorous and profitable. “I hate the word, but it’s all about establishing a brand,” says Mario Batali, whose endeavors include 15 restaurants, countless awards, a television show that had him tooling around Spain with Gwyneth Paltrow and a full line of cookware products. “Because once you have that, all these other opportunities open up, and you have this giant soapbox.” (See the 50 best websites of 2009.)

Food Revolutions
Perhaps no one knows that better than Jamie Oliver. In 1999 the lowly line cook began taping The Naked Chef (he wasn’t dressed down — his recipes were), which turned the 24-year-old into a national star in Britain. “I would make focaccia with semolina on the show, and semolina would sell out across the country,” he says. “You quickly learn that you have a responsibility.”

In between making gobs of money — doing endorsements for a supermarket chain, launching a dating website for food lovers, etc. — Oliver has worked hard to improve people’s eating habits. He collected more than 270,000 signatures in favor of improving school meals and delivered the petition to 10 Downing Street; eventually the British government pledged £650 million ($940 million) to the task. This spring he launched the TV show Food Revolution, which tracks his dietary-reform efforts in Huntington, W.Va., one of the most overweight cities in the U.S. He has also set up educational kitchens in Huntington as well as in Britain and Australia, to give families cooking lessons on how to prepare simple, healthy meals.

In other words, Oliver has become a culinary activist. “At heart, I’m probably no more political than anyone else,” he says. “But because of what I do, people listen to me. And right now there’s a massive need for information.” (See pictures of gourmet food trucks.)

Oliver is hardly alone in trying to educate consumers and shape public policy. In recent years, the pioneering Alice Waters has seen her Edible Schoolyard project, which uses gardening to teach children about where their food comes from, spread from Berkeley, Calif., to New Orleans; Greensboro, N.C.; and Brooklyn, N.Y. Dan Barber, a New York chef leading the effort to make agriculture more sustainable, has become so influential that he has spoken at Davos. This month, Michelle Obama got more than 500 chefs — including Rachael Ray — to join her initiative against childhood obesity. And everywhere, lesser-known cooks are teaching locals about the value of eating well-raised food. If there are green markets popping up all over the U.S. and diners scanning menus for the name of the farm that grew the carrots they’re about to eat, we have chefs to thank.

Celebrity has had salutary effects on the profession of cooking as well. “Thirty years ago, most people who worked in restaurant kitchens had either just gotten out of the Army or were on their way to jail,” says Batali. “Now you get all these people who went to college, then found their passion in cooking. The level is suddenly much higher because the people cooking are a lot smarter.”

Most major culinary schools are going through an unprecedented growth spurt. For example, applications to the Culinary Institute of America, the premier cooking school in the U.S., have jumped 50% in the past six years. That may have something to do with the economy. At the venerable Cordon Bleu in Paris, communications director Sandra Messier notes, “we’ve seen a lot of students using their severance packages from their old jobs to pay tuition.”

Cheering as if He Were Mick Jagger
For every potential cook who puts herself through an expensive culinary program or grinding apprenticeship, there are many more who seek to bypass all the years of drudgery and enter the profession through a new channel: reality TV. This year thousands of people applied for 17 slots on the seventh season of Top Chef (which premieres June 16). Some of the applicants are well-trained rising stars with James Beard awards under their toques. But most are nobodies rolling the dice.

Jodie Thompson, 30, a British travel agent, managed to beat some 20,000 other applicants to become one of the lucky 500 who got to audition this spring for MasterChef, the British counterpart to Top Chef. In a London conference room, she unpacked a Tupperware container from her bag and carefully plated the rosemary-scented roasted duck breast she had prepared earlier. She waited nervously as, cameras rolling, a producer took a bite and asked why she had chosen this route to launch her culinary career. “My brother went to catering school for two years,” Thompson replied. “I thought this would be more direct.”

And she’s right. These shows have a history of turning contestants into celebrity chefs. James Nathan is one of them. In 2008 he was working as a mechanic in Glastonbury, in the south of England, when, on a whim, he sent in an application to MasterChef. After wooing the producers at his audition with an onion-and-goat-cheese tart, he went on to win the competition. The attention was intoxicating. “Cabdrivers would lean out their windows and say, ‘Well done, James,'” he recalls. Best of all, he got the job of his dreams. Despite the fact that he had no experience outside the show, his newfound fame helped him land a position as junior sous-chef for two-Michelin-starred Michael Caines.

“We’ve created a symbiotic relationship between the television chef and the serious restaurant chef, where each furthers the efforts of the other,” says Ferran Adrià, perhaps the world’s most famous chef. Each year more than 1 million people try to get reservations at El Bulli, a small, 50-seat restaurant in northeastern Spain he started running in 1984. When the dean of molecular gastronomy speaks at chefs’ conferences, people rise to their feet and cheer as if he were Mick Jagger. When Adrià announced in January that in 2012 he would be closing his restaurant for two years, every major media outlet in the world covered the news. (See the top 10 TV chefs.)

Adrià, 48, has achieved all of this without ever starring in a television show or opening another restaurant. His reputation stems almost entirely from his wildly innovative cooking, which by playing with diners’ expectations — serving, for example, a cocktail that manages to be simultaneously hot and cold — forces people to re-examine their ideas about food. But he knows his prominence owes at least a small debt to the audience for great food that Jamie and Mario and all the others have helped create.

He, in turn, is pushing the boundaries of the chef even further. In March, Adrià was named the new face of a major Spanish tourism campaign. In the fall, he will co-teach a course in science and gastronomy at Harvard. And in 2014 he will launch a culinary think tank to train new generations of cooks to approach food with maximum creativity.

Yet Adrià is still in his kitchen every night during the six months of the year that El Bulli is open. If both Batali and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio have recently made news for getting back into the kitchen, it’s because most celebrity chefs spend far more time these days doing media appearances and traveling from restaurant to restaurant than cooking. “You can’t blame them,” says Rayner, who has become a bit of a celebrity himself, thanks to his role as judge on Top Chef Masters. “Before, cheffing was a bloody hard job and poorly paid at that. They’ve found a way to make it work.”

Cook It Raw
still, there’s a fine line between making it work and selling out. Not many chefs have crossed it — Rocco DiSpirito probably should have skipped Dancing with the Stars — but the threat is always there. “The one thing that will turn back the tide of celebrity is being seen as inauthentic at the thing that made you famous in the first place,” says Joshua Gamson, a sociologist at the University of San Francisco. “So the question is, Can you be a celebrity chef and maintain your authenticity as a cook?” (Watch TIME’s video “Low-Calorie Cooking with Rocco.”)

It’s a question that keeps Chang up at night. If chefs are today’s rock stars, few of them more closely fit the model than the 32-year-old behind the extraordinarily popular Momofuku restaurants in New York City. His style of intensely flavorful, technically proficient cooking, served in restaurants stripped of haute cuisine’s pretenses, has coincided perfectly with the dining zeitgeist and catapulted him to fame. (His outsize temper, colorful language and penchant for late-night drinking may also have played a role.) In the six years since opening his first restaurant, Chang has been accosted by autograph seekers while working out at the gym, had his underwear preferences publicized in Vanity Fair and read reports (all untrue) of restaurants he is supposedly opening in Seoul, Tokyo and London.

But now, in the wake of his fifth opening in New York, as he fends off investment offers from around the world and grapples with the ever present question of whether to do his own television show, Chang says his health is suffering from the stress and that he hardly ever cooks anymore. He still cares about making delicious food, but these days he sees his primary responsibility as taking care of the people who work for him, including helping them set up their own restaurants so that, with any luck, they can become famous too.

In January, Chang stopped to catch his breath and joined 12 other acclaimed chefs at a gathering in Italy called Cook It Raw. The event — it hopes to become a movement — prompts participants to think about the future of gastronomy by encouraging them to explore the connection between environmental consciousness and creativity. The chefs fished from local lagoons, met with the region’s winemakers and farmers and even attended a pig slaughter.

On the final night, they cooked a dinner together, one course per chef. In keeping with the environmental theme, the recipes were supposed to use as little energy as possible. As each dish came up, the chefs would gather round and marvel at their colleague’s technique. “To see each guy’s creativity, to watch his perfectionism, was amazing,” says Chang, who contributed a kimchi made from local radicchio. “It was so great to be actually cooking with them. You forget that’s what it’s all about.”

The 50 or so guests who dined that night in the candlelit cellar of an Italian castle were similarly dazzled. But even those who were not at the dinner can experience it. Like everything else in a world that has turned food into fetish and cooking into spectacle, the highlights are available on YouTube.

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Heston Blumenthal finds pub grub is good for profits as the Fat Duck slims down

Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal has seen a rising return on his investment in the Hinds Head gastro pub.

Fat Duck restaurant re-opensHeston Blumenthal outside his Fat Duck restaurant in Bray Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA

One was voted the greatest restaurant in the world, the other is a gastro pub. But of Heston Blumenthal‘s two restaurants, it was the pub that saw its profits more than double last year. In contrast, profits at the Fat Duck fell, partly as a result of one of the most exclusive dining experiences in the world becoming just that little bit more exclusive.

Accounts filed by SL6, Blumenthal’s holding company, show that the Michelin three-star restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, made a profit of £525,818 in 2009, compared with £732,278 the previous year. The nearby Hinds Head, in which SL6 owns a 75% stake, turned in £136,196, up from £51,088 the previous year.

With starters like pea and ham soup costing £6.35, a Balmoral venison cheeseburger setting diners back £11.95, and puddings at as little as £6.50, the Hinds Head offers a more affordable alternative to the Fat Duck, where the renowned 13-course taster menu is £150.

Some may conclude that anyone wanting to turn a profit in the restaurant trade should eschew copying the Fat Duck’s celebrated menu, which boasts staples such as nitro poached green tea and lime mousse and snail porridge, and focus on more traditional fare.

But the figures were affected by unique factors. Last year the Fat Duck was forced to close for two weeks after an outbreak of food poisoning led to the cancellation of some 800 bookings. If a £200,000 payout to cover the restaurant’s closure is factored in, the Fat Duck’s performance is almost unchanged.

The restaurant, which two years ago had 44 chefs for 42 customers, has also slightly reduced its number of tables, a decision that has made it even more difficult to obtain a booking – and had an impact on its bottom line.

“The decreased profit for 2008-2009 at the Fat Duck is representative of many different factors; the increased investment in staff and training, the increasing prices of the produce and ingredients we use,” a spokesman said. “Significantly, we also reduced the number of tables at the restaurant and now seat fewer guests. This has enabled us to focus on the precision of the food and give more attention to the service and the evolution of the overall dining experience. There are also the costs of the creative research and development work.”

The spokesman added: “Regarding the Hinds Head, both turnover and profitability increased in 2008-09, but this is related to the continuing development of the offering at this property.”

At a time of recession experts consider the performance impressive. Many three-star Michelin restaurants struggle to make money even in good times. The Fat Duck’s rival for the best restaurant in the world crown – El Bulli in Spain – has made no profit from its food since 2000, and its chef, Ferran Adrià, has announced he plans to close it in 2012.

“You need to put it into context, say compare it with good tickets for Manchester United versus Chelsea, or top-flight theatre tickets, and see it for what it is, something almost theatrical, a once-in-a-year treat,” said Elizabeth Carter, editor of the Good Food Guide. “With fine dining there are huge expectations. It really is a performance and someone like Heston gets it absolutely right.”

Blumenthal is about to open a restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in London, and is currently appearing on TV in his fairytale-themed cooking series. In an interview in 2008 he declared: “The Fat Duck enables me to do other things – publishing, TV, consulting – and by allowing those to expand I can allow the Fat Duck to shrink.”


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First Camera, Then Fork

JAVIER GARCIA, a 28-year-old neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, was in the campus pub recently having a grilled cheese sandwich. But before he took a bite, he snapped a digital picture of it, cheese artistically oozing between toasted white bread, just as he has photographed everything he has eaten in the last five years.

very other week he posts the photos on his Web site, ejavi.com/javiDiet, providing a strangely intimate and unedited view of his life and attracting fans from as far away as Ecuador. The nearly 9,000 photos leave nothing out, not even snacks as small as a single square of shredded wheat.

When he lost his iPhone while visiting New York last month, he pleaded with exasperated friends to take pictures of his food and to e-mail them to him, lest his record be incomplete. “It was a nightmare,” Mr. Garcia said, particularly because the unfocused pictures “were not the quality I’m used to.”

In 1825, the French philosopher and gourmand Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Today, people are showing the world what they eat by photographing every meal, revealing themselves perhaps more vividly than they might by merely reciting the names of appetizers and entrees.

Keeping a photographic food diary is a growing phenomenon with everything from truffle-stuffed suckling pig to humble bowls of Cheerios being captured and offered for public consumption. Indeed, the number of pictures tagged “food” on the photo-sharing Web site Flickr has increased tenfold to more than six million in the last two years, according to Tara Kirchner, the company’s marketing director. One of the largest and most active Flickr groups, called “I Ate This,” includes more than 300,000 photos that have been contributed by more than 19,000 members. There would be more, but members are limited to 50 photos a month. The same phenomena can be found on other sites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Foodspotting, Shutterfly, Chowhound and FoodCandy.

Nora Sherman, 28, the deputy director of the City University of New York’s Building Performance Lab, which promotes sustainable construction, finds that the pictures she takes of her food are her most popular posts on Facebook, Twitter and on her blog, Thought for Food, (noraleah.com). The immediate and enthusiastic commentary on, say, an arugula and feta salad or a plate of fried okra have given her a sense of connection and community since moving to Manhattan from New Orleans in 2006.

“People I have never met follow my blog and know me through the food I eat,” Ms. Sherman said. She was even introduced to her boyfriend through someone she came to know through his comments on the food pictures on her blog, and who thought the two might be a match.

She said she takes pictures of at least half the meals she eats, omitting, for example, multicourse meals when it might “interrupt the flow.” But she has noticed lately that it’s becoming harder to suppress the urge to shoot. “I get this ‘must take picture’ feeling before I eat, and what’s worse is that I hate bad pictures so I have to capture it in just the right light and at just the right angle,” Ms. Sherman said.

She uses a Canon PowerShot S90 and uploads pictures to her Web site daily, sometimes several times a day, which takes at most 30 minutes a day. The camera, she said, is small but works well in low light. She doesn’t style her photos, saying, “I like to take shots that no pro would ever take — holding an oyster in my hand about to slurp it down, or a bagel with a bite out of it.”

Her impulse to photograph her food and do so artistically has made her a more adventurous eater. “It’s driven me to seek out interesting, photogenic foods,” she said. She is now more likely to eat foods she would have once avoided, like beef tendon, heart and tripe at an Asian shopping mall in Flushing, Queens. And, she said, photographing the food has kept her honest when she has started diets: “When I decided to have salad for dinner during a juice fast, I snapped and posted that.”

Photos are also a means of self-motivation for Mr. Garcia, who began photographing his food after he lost 80 pounds. “It’s definitely part of my neuroticism about trying to keep thin,” he said. “It keeps you accountable because you don’t want to have to see that you ate an entire jar of peanut butter.”

And, ever the scientist, he hopes to one day use the photographs to calculate how much money he spends to consume a calorie versus how much he spends in gym memberships and sports gear to burn a calorie. “People I have dated haven’t been that into it,” he said of his food photo-journaling. “But it’s never been a deal breaker.”

Pamela Hollinger, 36, an independent radio programmer and announcer in Stephenville, Tex., said her husband of eight years is resigned to her taking pictures of her food. “When we were dating, it was like, ‘What are you doing?’ ” she said. “Now it’s a quirk he’s come to accept.”

Her habit began in 1997 as a way to show her mother what she ate on vacations, but she now photographs almost everything she eats, leaving out only insignificant snacks and anything unappealing looking, like a bowl of oatmeal. “I think getting an iPhone had a lot to do with it,” Ms. Hollinger said. “It’s so easy to just take a quick picture of what I’m eating and no one really notices.” Or maybe they think she is just texting at the table.

She e-mails the pictures directly from her phone to a few friends and posts some of them on her Facebook page as well as on Chowhound. “I like to show off what I’m eating or something I’ve made that I’m proud of, like a pork rib-eye roast that became pulled pork sandwiches and then pork tacos and then pork salad,” she said. “I get more comments on my food pictures than anything else. Within seconds, I get, ‘Oh, I’m jealous,’ or ‘Hey, can I come over?’ ”

That some people are keeping photographic food diaries and posting them online does not surprise psychotherapists. “In the unconscious mind, food equals love because food is our deepest and earliest connection with our caretaker,” said Kathryn Zerbe, a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders and food fixations at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. “So it makes sense that people would want to capture, collect, catalog, brag about and show off their food.”

Photographing meals becomes pathological, however, if it interferes with careers or relationships or there’s anxiety associated with not doing it. “I’d have to ask if they would feel O.K. if they didn’t do it,” said Tracy Foose, a psychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, who treats patients with obsessive-compulsive disorders. “Could they resist the urge to do it?”

Joe Catterson, the general manager of Alinea restaurant in Chicago, said that, increasingly, people can’t. “One guy arrived with the wrong lens or something on his camera and left his wife sitting at the table for an hour while he went home to get it,” he said.

Such compulsion is apparent even at restaurants where the plating is less elaborate. “They’ve got to take a picture of their pancakes and send it to their friend,” said John Vasilopoulos, the manager at the Cup & Saucer, a diner on the Lower East Side. “I don’t get it because their food gets cold, but I take it as a compliment.”

Evidently aware of the trend, manufacturers like Nikon, Olympus, Sony and Fuji have within the last two years released cameras with special “food” or “cuisine” modes, costing around $200 to $600. “These functions enable close-up shots with enhanced sharpness and saturation so the food colors and textures really pop,” said Terry Sullivan, associate editor of digital imaging technologies at Consumer Reports.

This bemuses Tucker Shaw, the food critic for The Denver Post, who made do with a basic point-and-shoot digital camera to take pictures of everything he ate in 2004; he published the photos in his book, “Everything I Ate: A Year in the Life of My Mouth.”

“It used to turn heads if you took a picture of your food, and I even got in trouble at a few restaurants,” he said. “Now it’s ubiquitous and just shows that we are in a spastic food era — we couldn’t get more obsessive.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Shaw said the year he spent photographing his food (and a year was enough for him) resulted in an achingly honest account of his life that revealed far more than the fact that he ate too few leafy green vegetables: “The pictures, I realize now, are incredibly personal, and by looking at them you can probably deduce the type of person I am.” Moreover, the pictures set off memories and emotions in a way a written journal could not. “I remember every single day, who I was with, what I was feeling,” he said.

Unlike a picture of a flower or friend, a picture of a meal recalls something smelled, touched, tasted and ultimately ingested. Carl Rosenberg, 52, a Web site developer who divides his time among San Francisco; Austin, Tex.; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, photographs his food along the way with a Nikon D3.

“You have more of a direct connection with your food, so it forms a more essential memory of an occasion,” he said. He often places a small stuffed animal, a sheep, which he calls the Crazy Sheep, next to his food before taking a picture; reminiscent of the globe-trotting garden gnome in the French film “Amélie.”

“I think photographing food is a more accurate way to document life,” said Mr. Rosenberg, who shares photos with family and friends but does not post them. “Food isn’t going to put on a special face when you take a picture of it.”


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elBulli es convertirà en una Fundació el 2014

L’objectiu d’aquest document és donar a conèixer els primers detalls que ja s’han definit sobre la Fundació d’elBulli, la seu del qual serà la de l’actual restaurant elBulli a Cala Montjoi.
El recolzament i el suport rebut –des que vam apuntar la idea de convertir-nos en una Fundació- pel nostre propi equip, pels mitjans de comunicació, pels professionals del sector i pels amics que comparteixen la nostra filosofia, és el que ens ha dut a prendre definitivament aquesta decisió i a comunicar-la ja de forma oficial, assumint ambil·lusió totes les seves conseqüències i el repte que representa.
És una decisió conseqüent amb la nostra trajectòria, ja que al llarg de la història d’elBulli hi ha hagut diversos punts notables d’inflexió i ruptura que han marcat el seu progrés i procés evolutiu, per exemple:
· 1987: L’obertura del restaurant només sis mesos a l’any.
· 1993: El disseny i construcció de la nova cuina.
· 1998: La creació d’elBullitaller.
· 2001: Oferir un únic servei al dia, obrint només per sopar.
· 2002: Supressió de la carta, deixant com a única oferta la d’un menú degustació.

La creació d’aquesta Fundació és un altre pas endavant, certament molt significatiu, en la nostra vocació d’evolució constant i compromís permanent amb la creativitat. Tot el que hem fet ho hem compartit sempre amb el món gastronòmic. Aquesta Fundació ens permetrà dur encara més lluny aquest Leitmotiv, perquè serà una Fundació oberta a tots aquells que –com nosaltres- viuen amb la convicció que el que hem recorregut junts no és més que el principi d’un llarg camí que ens durà a assolir també noves metes, tan impensables en aquests moments com ho eren fa uns anys els èxits aconseguits fins ara. La Fundació d’elBulli serà la Fundació de tots els amants de la gastronomia d’avantguarda: cuiners, sommeliers, professionals de sala, gastrònoms, creatius pensadors o simplement apassionats pel nostre somni… Un viver de novesidees i de nous talents per anar plegats i de la mà més lluny encara.

Primers detalls sobre el model, objectiu i operativa de la Fundació:
1. Serà una Fundació privada i sense ànim de lucre.
2. Volem que sigui un Think Tank de creativitat gastronòmica per a cuiners i personal de sala.
3. La Fundació atorgarà anualment entre 20 i 25 beques a cuiners i personal de sala, que treballaran conjuntament amb l’equip creatiu de la Fundació. La durada d’aquestes beques serà d’un any, excepte el període de vacances. El
procediment de selecció d’aquests becaris serà molt exigent i rigorós.
4. No serà una escola.
5. Es treballarà de forma sinèrgica amb altres disciplines com el disseny, l’art, la comunicació creativa… Perseguim feedback, interrelació i projecció més enllà del món de la gastronomia.
6. La Fundació d’elBulli serà totalment complementària amb la Fundació Alícia. Aquesta relació es materialitzarà en una col·laboració permanent pel que fa a les investigacions i descobriments que realitza la Fundació Alícia en matèria
científica com a suport als avenços en l’àmbit de l’alimentació i la gastronomia.
7. Els progressos de cada any s’aniran donant a conèixer a través de llibres en format tradicional i/o electrònic, produccions audiovisuals, internet i qualsevol altre suport tecnològic que es consideri adequat per a la seva divulgació. També en congressos i en escoles de gastronomia.
8. Paral·lelament s’anirà realitzant un treball a més llarg termini que esdevindrà una gran enciclopèdica sobre la cuina contemporània, un compendi exhaustiu i molt detallat sobre mètodes creatius, estudis sobre productes, noves elaboracions, tècniques, conceptes i estils que han marcat l’evolució de la cuina en les darreres dècades.
9. El propi espai físic d’elBulli es condicionarà per poder atendre aquests nous projectes, necessitats i finalitats. Inicialment ens estem plantejant comptar amb una sala per a audiovisuals i una biblioteca. No obstant això, a causa del seu
caràcter emblemàtic, el menjador es mantindrà intacte com està ara.
10. Les creacions gastronòmiques, fruit dels treballs realitzats per l’equip de cuina de la Fundació, es podran tastar cada any a partir del 2014 durant un temps determinat i per un cert nombre de comensals. No podem concretar per ara més detalls al respecte, ja que encara estem estudiant el model més adequat per a aquesta nova operativa.
11. A causa del meticulós i acurat treball d’anàlisi i definició que ens exigim per desenvolupar el disseny final d’aquesta Fundació en tots els seus vessants, necessitem comptar amb el temps suficient de reflexió, anàlisi i concreció de totes aquestes noves línies de treball obertes i de les altres que puguin considerar-se d’ara en endavant. Per tot això, i fins que no haguem pogut avançar més i d’una forma substancial en aquest procés, i fins que no haguem pres noves i rellevants decisions respecte del format de la Fundació no en tornarem a donar més informacions.


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What Will the World’s Best Restaurant Become Next?

“Make it new!” When poet Ezra Pound issued his 1934 manifesto to modern artists, he surely didn’t have cooks in mind. But there is probably no creative force today who takes Pound’s dictum more seriously than Spanish chef Ferran Adrià. After two decades spent revolutionizing modern cuisine, he and his business partner Juli Soler astonished the culinary world in January by announcing that they would close their restaurant elBulli for a two-year period of reflection from 2012, and reopen in a new format. Now, Adrià has detailed to TIME his plans to reinvent what many consider the most influential restaurant in the world. “In the 25-year history of elBulli, there have been five moments of rupture, and now it’s time for another,” says Adrià. “The one thing we can’t have is monotony.” (Why reservations just got tougher at the world’s best restaurant.)

In the past, those ruptures involved opening only for dinner, or developing a workshop to test new ideas during the six months the restaurant is closed each year. This rupture will be more dramatic. Instead of a restaurant, elBulli will become a nonprofit foundation, operating as a think tank where talented young chefs will explore new directions in gastronomy. It’s a subject with which Adrià, 47, and his team have ample experience. The chef will probably always be identified with radical innovations like potato foam and foie gras “noodles” frozen with liquid nitrogen. But more than any one dish or technique, he has changed the way that people think about food. Chefs around the world have adopted not only his dazzling concoctions, but his ethos — to bring science, art and cooking into closer collaboration, to use food not only to please and satiate but to amaze and provoke; and above all, to constantly reinvent. Fellow holder of three Michelin stars, chef Juan Mari Arzak defines Adrià’s role simply: “He is the most important chef in the history of cuisine.”

Adrià is careful to emphasize that he is not opening a culinary school. “This is about creativity more than cooking,” he says. “We’re not going to be teaching anyone how to break down a cod.” The foundation will grant fellowships to 20 or 25 young cooks a year so that they may spend 12 months working with elBulli’s core staff, investigating new techniques and developing new flavors. Discussions led by prominent chefs and leaders in art and design will complement their research. Each year, the foundation will release a book and video that catalogue its discoveries; a team will disseminate those ideas at chefs’ conferences and culinary schools. The fellows will also help Adrià compile an encyclopedia on contemporary cuisine. To accommodate all this, elBulli will expand. The sleek, airy kitchen and homely dining room will remain untouched, but Adrià and Soler are meeting with architects to draw up plans for an audiovisual room and a library. The two have high ambitions for the foundation, which has already received interest from outside sponsors. “Our dream is that each year, we’ll turn out one or two chefs who will be extremely important for the future of cuisine.” (elBulli chef Ferran Adrià’s Harvard science lesson.)

That’s all well and good, but for the millions of gourmands who clamor for one of the 8,000 reservations the restaurant assigns in an annual lottery, the more pressing question is: Will there be anything to eat? “We’re changing the economic model, and we’re changing the reservation system,” says Adrià. “But we’re still going to be feeding people.” How exactly they’ll do that is yet to be decided. The restaurant will be open for a normal six-month season in 2010 and 2011, but after that, all bets are off. When it reopens in 2014, elBulli may offer impromptu tastings, Adrià says, and will serve roughly 60 meals a year in the formal style of a restaurant. Just don’t ask him how they’ll decide who gets in.

Why all the changes? Like many restaurants with three Michelin stars, elBulli does not make a profit (its principals support themselves with consulting, investments and speaking engagements), but Adrià says the financial burdens of the restaurant, as well as the obstacles it poses to family life, merely accelerated his decision, not determined it. His primary motivation was to maintain the creative spark. “Part of my job is to see into the future, and I could see that our old model is finished,” he says. “It’s time to figure out what comes next.”

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Ferran Adrià

Entrevista al cuiner Ferran Adrià, xef d’El Bulli, que ens explica els veritables motius del tancament del millor restaurant del món.


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