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Chef's Drawings Provide Mesmerizing Portals Into The Creative Process Of A Food Master

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Ferran Adrià is a molecular gastronomer, avant-garde chef and multi-sensory food artist. As a current exhibition at The Drawing Center reveals, the man can also produce a pretty enchanting sketch. A show titled "Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity" explores Adrià's less edible masterpieces -- the ones on paper -- exploring how drawing serves as the link between thinking and cooking.

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Plating Diagram, ca. 2000-2004, Colored pen on graph paper, Courtesy of elBullifoundation


Adrià made a name for himself as Chef de partie of the Spanish food mecca elBulli, where he worked from 1984 until 2011, when he closed the restaurant to transform it into a foundation. Throughout this period, Adrià bewitched diners with his trademark conceptual dishes, incorporating unexpected elements like spoons, skewers, jellies and savory ice cream into his work.

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Plating Diagram, ca. 2000-2004, Colored pen on graph paper, Courtesy of elBullifoundation


"Three pillars characterized the cuisine of elBulli," The Drawing Center explains in a statement. "Continual research of new cooking techniques; an emphasis on the role of the senses in the art of creating and eating; and the sixth sense, that is to say, the role of reason and reflection on the act of eating."

To become the food provocateur he is today, Adrià filled hundreds of notebooks with ideas, collages, and sketches of dishes in progress. Lists, flowcharts and diagrams acted as both abstract tools and independent art objects that capture the progress of a dish from inception to delicious completion.

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Theory of Culinary Evolution, 2013, Crayon, paint stick and colored pencil, Sixty drawings, each: 11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches Courtesy of elBullifoundation


The Drawing Center's director Brett Littman dined at elBulli in 2010 and was mesmerized by the unfiltered creativity served on the plate before him. Challenging, witty, skillful and sensual, Adrià didn't just feed his patrons food, he changed their preconceived notions of what food was. In case you're wanting a more specific reference point, Slate describes a signature Adrià dish as "a nutmeg-sprinkled ostrich 'eggshell' made of flash-frozen gorgonzola that had to be manually cracked open and consumed using only your fingers in 18 seconds before it puddled into oblivion." Yum.

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Plating Diagram, ca. 2000-2004, Colored pen on graph paper, Courtesy of elBullifoundation


Once Littman discovered Adrià's sketches, the visualizations of his ever-fluctuating thought process, he was hooked. "He started by drawing shapes, focusing on color and texture and placement without a specific recipe plan," Littman told Slate. "His drawings aren’t necessarily great representations of food, they are used more like mental maps or flowcharts to visualize the way that he thinks."

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Theory of Culinary Evolution, 2013, Crayon, paint stick and colored pencil, Sixty drawings, each: 11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches Courtesy of elBullifoundation


The drawings range from depictions of cooking's 40,000-year history to coded plates with colors and shapes that almost translate to recognizable foods. Part playful doodles, part calculations of a true genius, the sketches make the elusive creative process legible to the open eye. Just seeing the visuals has already driven us into a tantalized frenzy. We can only imagine the sensation of devouring the images in their fully fleshed-out forms.

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Albert Adrià, Ferran Adrià, and Oriol Castro, From Notebooks Related to Creativity, 1987-2011 Ink on paper, Courtesy of elBullifoundation


Along with the drawings, Adrià's exhibition will feature many more gateways into the belly of elBulli, including photographic reproductions of its kitchen, notebooks documenting menu development, plasticine food models and "1846," a 90 minute film that sumptuously depicts all 1,846 dishes Adrià served at elBulli. See a preview of the film below.

1846- Ferran Adriá Preview w/ sound HD from Mogollon on Vimeo.

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Creative Pyramid, 2013, Ink on paper, Dimensions variable Courtesy of elBullifoundation


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Theory of Culinary Evolution, 2013, Crayon, paint stick and colored pencil, Sixty drawings, each: 11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches Courtesy of elBullifoundation


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Plating Diagram, ca. 2000-2004 , Colored pen on graph paper, Courtesy of elBullifoundation


"Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity" runs until February 28 at The Drawing Center in New York.

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