What Ferran Adrià Taught Me.

In honor of republishing Michael Paterniti’s 2001 story, “He Might Be A Prophet. That, Or The Greatest Chef In The World,” we asked one of Ferran Adrià’s protégés, Wylie Dufresne, what he learned from the master.

What Ferran Adrià Taught Me

By Wylie Dufresne

There was a time when whenever a technique came out of El Bulli it would go viral. Chefs all over the world would put food into siphons or try spherifying things. Now, people talk about molecular gastronomy — the foams and the gels — and question what will endure. For me, the movement has always been about education, helping us look at a piece of meat or a piece of fish or a vegetable in a deeper way, understanding it better so that we might consider different ways of working with it.

There’s no denying that modernist cooking has found its way into kitchens all over the world, even if it’s simply a restaurant using just a little bit of xanthan gum to make their purées a little tighter, a little thicker. We’re seeing second-, even third-generation usage of ingredients and techniques like liquid nitrogen, sous-vide, freeze-drying, and hydrocolloids. This equipment has become part of the tools that chefs have at their disposal — though not always in ways that you would notice.

As one of the leaders of the modernist food movement, Ferran Adrià gave us many of these techniques, but more importantly, he gave us creative license. He gave us the courage to think more freely about what makes up a dining experience. Since El Bulli closed, some people have taken that concept and run with it; others have gone back to doing it the way they did before. Regardless, the thought process, the ideology, lingers. Adrià helped us see that the format doesn’t have to be the way it has always been. He and his chefs showed us you can change it.

As told to Jessie Kissinger.

Read “He Might Be A Prophet. That, Or The Greatest Chef In The World” on Esquire Classics.

Spanish chef Ferran Adrià tastes a sauce in his restaurant El Bulli on June 16, 2007 in Roses, Spain. Photo by Samuel Aranda/Getty Images. Cover photo: Spherical green olives. Photography from ElBulli 2005–2011 (c) Francesc Guillamet.