Sunday, 27 July 2008

Small Plates, Sideburns, Two Revolutions And A Kitchen Curiosity

"Chef Carles Abellan offers small plates and tapas with soul in his kitchen", read a review of my place of work earlier this year in El Periódico de Catalunya, the local Catalan/Castilian dual language newspaper.

Feature article in El PeriódicoThe article, bylined Pau Arenós, caught my eye not because it was about Comerç 24, nor because the author is one of Catalunya's most celebrated scribblers - the Editor in Chief of El Periódico, a prize-winning gastronomist, journalist, novelist and media celebrity. Not was it because Sr. Arenós is a close friend of Ferran Adrià and an advisor to Alícia, the Food & Science Foundation of Catalunya.

I wish I could put my hand on my heart and tell you that I was attracted to this article because Pau Arenós is the man who effectively codified the work of Ferran Adrià and the school of molecular gastronomy through his Ten Fundamental Principles of Technoemotional Cooking, although that would be a good enough reason for my interest. For those with a more detailed interest in this subject, there's a great thread on The eGullet Society Forums initiated by John Sconzo, whom I thank for the information and for permission to reproduce the photo below of Pau Arenós with Ferran Adrià and Toni Massanés of Alícia at Madrid Fusion 2008.

To summarise - in the mid 60s, the nouvelle cuisine introduced by Paul Bocuse, the Troisgros brothers, Michel Guérard and others led Henri Gault & Christian Millau to define the new movement in 10 points:
  1. Greater simplicity and rejection of excess.
  2. Preservation of flavours through shorter cooking times.
  3. Primary product quality and emphasis on freshness.
  4. Shorter menus.
  5. Abandonment of strong marinades for meat and game.
  6. Change from classic heavy sauces to lighter ones.
  7. Inspiration from regional traditions.
  8. New techniques and equipment.
  9. Accommodation of dietary and nutritional concerns.
  10. Emphasis on creativity.
The nouvelle cuisine revolution was to set the direction for gastronomy for 30 years, until Ferran Adrià - along with Bixente Arrieta, Àlvaro Martínez and Andoni Adúriz - formed his creative "development squad" at El Bulli and began the process that was to dominate cooking at the highest level to the present day.
Pau Arenós sitting between Toni Massanés and Ferran Adrià at Madrid Fusión 2008
The new movement resulting from cooking's most recent revolution, denoted Technoemotional Cooking, is defined by Pau Arenós in 10 points that can be summarised as follows:
  1. Chefs create for themselves, share with others and hope they will be appreciated.
  2. Chefs take risks, knowing that their creations may not be understood.
  3. Development through new techniques and concepts, not dish by dish.
  4. Creations set out to stimulate all the senses, including touch.
  5. Surpassing physical and sensory pleasure, intellectual pleasure is also sought.
  6. Chefs engage with other disciplines and with new technologies.
  7. Diners are not passive but active participants in the process.
  8. All products have the same gastronomic value.
  9. The degustation menu is the ideal form, with disappearing boundaries between savoury and sweet.
  10. Cooking is a way of life - the restaurant is not just a business.
These points supplement those of nouvelle cuisine rather than replace them and some are recognisable as overlapping (cuisine d'auteur, for example, can be attributed to some of the pioneers of novelle cuisine).

A reference to me in Pau's articleAll very interesting... but none of this is the real reason for my interest. By now you will probably have spotted the same thing that I did - my name (incorrectly spelt) and a comment including the word "curiosa". Translated literally it's a bit ambiguous, but my Spanish has improved enough since I've been here for me to make a good shot at a colloquial translation: "One of the brigade is Brit Adrian [sic] Brooks, who narrates his chef experiences at Comerç 24 in his blog and The Guardian newspaper. A new and interesting view from a foreign perspective. A soul with soul."

The final sentence translates literally as "Topics of gossip and sideburns". But if my Castilian is right, there's a witty double-entendre here, the alternative version being "small plates and free snacks".

A few months ago my sideburns were quite long, but I've trimmed them up a bit since. I didn't want to appear too curious as a foreigner, gossiping in the kitchens.


ros said...

It's interesting that they managed to spell your web address correctly but stlll think you're called Adrian.

I like those ten point summaries. The modern movement seems like a perfectly natural progression from the one in the 60s.

Jeena said...

Great post, Aidan congratulations on the article. :-)

discontinued wedgewood china said...

yeah, i like #10 the best. nothing beats a passionately cooked meal.

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