Another week, and yet another chef comes visiting. Our food loving folk are clearly on a roll
The smiling, ebullient young Spanish chef Jordi Bernas stopped by The Ritz Carlton Bengaluru. Bernas, known for his work with El Bulli (named World’s Best Restaurant by Restaurant magazine a record number of times) is also popular for his molecular gastronomy, much of it learnt first-hand from his revered mentor Chef Ferran Adria. The latter had stunned the world by closing his famous restaurant El Bulli in 2011 at the height of its success.
Like Adria, Bernus is Catalonian, a resident of Barcelona, he tells me. While he is doing his thing with Ritz Carlton Jakarta’s Lobo restaurant right now, the shadow of his famous mentor continues to dog him. Not surprising, since Bernus has clocked two separate stints under Adria at El Bulli, the first as an intern in 2005 at age 23, the second in 2009 when he collaborated with Adria on writing a book The Family Meal, Home Cooking with Ferran Adria.
Since I’m eternally curious about how creative geniuses think and conceptualise, I asked Bernus what Adria (who also mentored Joan Roca and Rene Redzepi) was like as a person. “Strict, very strict. A complete perfectionist,” he confesses, “He could be kind of crazy sometimes.” Adria has been known to throw a fit if the height of the foam on his finished dish wasn’t spot on. Bernus confirms this. “Ferran loved soya tiramisu, something I don’t like at all myself. He worked with so many ingredients including vegetarian products. I honestly cannot see vegetables as anything beyond starters, not main course material. Vegetarian food is a challenge for me.”
Understandable. Like all Spaniards Bernus is a worshipper of seafood and meat as ingredients. Later, I watched him whip together a nutty Parmesan ice-cream in pillowy clouds of liquid nitrogen smoke like a magician. Has he tried the complexity of Indian spices in his dishes? “Asian cuisines are a big challenge; every country is so different in their ingredients, cooking styles and techniques. I love to travel, and travel has been my biggest learning process.” Once done travelling, Bernus would like to open his own restaurant, but he’s not certain when, only “it’s my goal. I’ll know when the time is right.”
Spain is a country bristling with culinary superstars running Michelin-starred eateries creating phenomenal food experiences (over 170 in all), from the Roca brothers’ top-ranked El Cellar de Can Roca, to Pedro Subijana (Akelarre), Martín Berasategui (Martín Berasategui), Andoni Luis Aduriz (Mugaritz), Elena Arzak (Arzak) and so on. What does Bernus attribute this to? “In Spain our chefs are open, always sharing information and new techniques with one another. We get together regularly, often handing each other pen drives with our secrets and recipes. This is all due to Ferran – he’s the one who changed chefs’ mentalities. Earlier, chefs would be secretive. Ferran changed that. Now we’re always looking for ways to improve.”