Archives for posts with tag: Ferran Adria

I have just returned from a two week trip to Peru taking in the varied sights of the Amazon rainforest, the Inca trail and finally the world’s highest Lake Titicaca. Our trip was not a culinary one, but I couldn’t help think about the fact that Peruvian food is capturing the imagination of most switched on foodies these days.

Last year, the key chefs of the world travelled to Lima to partake in the Mistura Festival which is Peru’s annual 10 day celebration of local food. It boasts street food, farmers, restaurants and a variety of focused corners showcasing the country’s chocolate, bread, coffee and of course the signature alcohol: Pisco. This September festival in Lima drew in 600,000 people this year so it is an impressive showcase. There has to be something to see when you consider the fact that Ferran Adria, Dan Barber, Heston Blumenthal, Michel Bras and Rene Redzepi all went to see what was on offer. It’s quite an impressive list of attendees. So how did Peruvian food come to be so important? Well you can pretty much put that down to one man: Gaston Acurio.

Gaston Acurio

Gaston and his wife Astrid have 28 restaurants around the world including the eponymous Astrid y Gaston in Lima which entered the World’s 50 best restaurant list at number 42 this year. He may be called the Jamie Oliver of Peru but frankly I think that under sells the influence of this man. He clearly leads the way in his country and has not taken that responsibility lightly. He is the father of the Mistura and as such has earned his place as a Peruvian national hero extolling the virtues of his very own Peruvian cuisine.

“If you’re fortunate enough to occupy a position where people listen to you, you need to use your voice wisely. One man can be strong, but if he uses his power to help his people, amazing things can happen. In Peru there is no ME. There is only WE” he says.

If you think this sounds a little unlikely, then think about the street food vendors we visited on our way up to Lake Titicaca. Who could have predicted that this unassuming Peruvian blanket covered a local lamb delicacy? even though it was served in a yellow plastic bag!

Underneath the blanket lay sheets of brown paper and inside there, slow cooked, seasoned, flavoured lamb that was crispy at the edges and soft and juicy inside. There was nothing glamorous about this. It was hacked apart with a cleaver and ripped with her hands so even the hardiest of street food veterans may have wondered what it was all about, but when you tasted it….well, let’s just say you had to be there.

Mr. Acurio was told about these ladies and their wonderful lamb some years ago. Our tour guide told me that Gaston made his way up to find them simply to try out the lamb and bring them back to attend the Mistura that year. Apparently, as a result of attending the festival, they now own a really successful restaurant in Lima serving the very same lamb. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Taking in the rays

I managed to grab a few days away last week with the lovely Natasha. It was a great excuse to soak up some sunshine, take a dip in my choice of swimming pool and partake in a massage or two. But more importantly, it was a chance to get on top of the pile of books that have been accumulating by the side of my bed for many months now.

The inspirational Gabrielle Hamilton

The first read was Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, chef owner of Prune restaurant in NYC. This book was a birthday present from my LA friend Bonnie and came with her passionate recommendation along with a back cover of food royalty extolling the virtues of Ms Hamilton as both a chef and a writer. They were all absolutely spot on…this is a book for everyone enthused about food to read. From the very first chapter you are hooked by the whole family party, spit roast lamb experience and it just made me want to get back home and dig a bbq pit directly there in my tiny garden. This book is remarkably honest and very well written and really makes you see just what madness and dedication it takes to run a successful restaurant. Go to Prune (go early for Sunday brunch) and eat her food. It is wonderful.

Ferran

I followed this tome with “Ferran: the inside story of El Bulli and the man who reinvented food”. OK – so you know who and what this book is about and whilst it is ever so sycophantic, it is a really good record of all things Ferran.

What is interesting about both these books is the way that these two untrained chefs became so respected and successful in their world. They both share some similar traits even if their approaches differ. The first is the influence of their childhood and upbringing. Don’t get me started on the whole psychological reasoning of this but take it from me that your childhood and early experiences really do shape these guys. This is about going back to the source of food from their upbringing whether it is a memory of family life (the lamb pit above) or the authentic cuisine of home. Both are loyal to the flavours of their youth.

Then, there is a dedication to the cause that is beyond most of our comprehension. It doesn’t really matter what drives it, but this industry requires a monumental dedication to the cause. It is almost at the expense of everything else. What fascinates me is how they both got to this place and what it is we need to do to influence the up and coming youth of today with this trait. Recently, Marcus Wareing was reported as lambasting young chefs who are “clueless and lazy” and predicting that if this attitude continues, there will be no future to the industry. He may very well be right.

Finally, there is a lovely quote in the Ferran book about creativity from Chef Jacques Maximin. He says: “Creativity means not copying” and this was an epiphany for Senor Adria. It is another lesson to be taught and encouraged from a young age. It is only now, in my old age, that I have the guts to have my own opinion and almost pride myself in approaching things from a different perspective. When I was younger I thought there was a right and a wrong but when it comes to art, there is just so much more.

Combine these three fundamentals and you have great chefs, and probably great artists, great musicians and so much more. So on that note – go create! bring something new to this world.