Book Review – The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season In The Kitchen At Ferran Adria’s elBulli

Lisa Abend

The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen of Ferran Adria’s elBulli

Lisa Abend, 2011

For a prestigious and unprecedented five years in a row, Ferran Adria’s now-closed elBulli was voted best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine. Widely regarded as the most influential chef in the era of molecular gastronomy, Ferran Adria’s mind-blowing cuisine was the talk of the restaurant and foodie world. What exactly was it that happened behind those kitchen doors on the coast of Spain?

Thankfully, author Lisa Abend has pulled back the mysterious curtain to reveal a team of dedicated stagieres working incredibly hard at the both physically and mentally demanding tasks found in this prestigious kitchen. Unlike many restaurants taking in up-and-coming chefs, elBulli demanded only the best chefs from restaurants like The French Laundry and treated them as rookies, educating them in the methods and madness that allowed elBulli to stand out.

Featuring an intriguing cast of diverse stagieres, thirty-five in total, this book leads the reader through the spotless, fluorescent kitchen. The result is ability to feel the steam from blanching edible rose petals, or sympathize with the pain of chefs hunched over hot stoves, peeling skin carefully off of hot milk pots for hours on end.

It was almost with a sense of relief that I closed the book, as though I had lived the experience and gleaned all the information I needed to know without having to rearrange patio stones out front or clean mysterious, slimy sea creatures. Ferran Adria, it is revealed, is not only a talented culinary genius, but a perfection-driven master allowing nothing less than the most impeccable plate to ever reach a guest.

So detailed and unique it was almost an exhausting read, I found The Sorcerer’s Apprentices to be both intriguing and educational. I quite simply could not put it down, and would highly recommend it to anyone who has ever wondered about the thought process behind molecular gastronomy. Far from traditional, these techniques require a certain creativity that few have, and to watch from afar through the skilled wordcraft of Lisa Abend allows the reader a glimpse into the mind of a mad gastronomical genius and all those who willingly, exhaustingly do his bidding.

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