Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, the foodie favorite who raised the profile of molecular gastronomy at his El Bulli restaurant in Catalonia, stopped by Fortune Wednesday afternoon to discuss his new role as brand ambassador for telecommunications giant Telefónica SA. (TEF)
At first blush the Adrià-Telefónica alliance may seem incongruous–like a delicate fish paired with a hearty Zinfandel–but Adrià insisted that partnership makes sense: “When you wake up in the morning, you check the time on your mobile phone, you have breakfast, then you check the Internet to see if the world is still there,” he said through an interpreter. “The first 40 minutes of the day are taken up by food and telecommunications.”
As part of the multiyear relationship Telefónica will provide technology and R&D support to Adrià as he transforms El Bulli, which is closing in July, into a new space called elBulliFoundation. As described by Adrià and Telefónica the foundation is part archive, part culinary academy–and all its projects will be made available for viewing via the Internet.Adrià said technology has transformed the restaurant business for the better. He said that food blogs and websites enable him to experience restaurants without having to visit them. He says he can tell just from a photo of a dish whether he would like to visit a restaurant.
Still, he hasn’t embraced all forms of technology. “The Internet as a means of communications is a dream come true, but I do not have a Facebook account or Twitter account and probably never will.” Why not? “I don’t think it is good or bad, I just don’t have much time for it. Also, I am concerned about the addictive aspects of it. In the last three years social networks have become very strong but we don’t know what the consequences will be.”
Who Adrià Admires
Though he is best known for his work at El Bulli, Adrià has long had affiliations with corporations. He told Fortune that he has done work with Kraft (KFT) and PepsiCo (PEP), for example. Like many of today’s chefs, he is as knowledgeable about the business aspects of his restaurant as the creative elements.
Adrià made a point of distinguishing his work — he has described his cooking as “deconstructivist” rather than using the term “molecular gastronomy” from the rest of the high-end cooking world. (“You have to make a distinction between avant garde cuisine and high-end cuisine. It is like the difference between haute couture and fashion.”) But he’s not a food snob: when he visits New York he dines at the top restaurants, but also has experienced dim sum in Chinatown and even diners.
Asked to name a fellow chef he admires, he cited Nobu Matsuhisa of the Nobu restaurants. “I consider him toe be one of the most influential chefs in the world because he modernized Japanese cuisine for the Western world.”
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