Museum highlights creative process of a great chef

Photo of Ferran Adrià Courtesy of elBullifoundation

Photo of Ferran Adrià Courtesy of elBullifoundation

Ferran Adrià has run the Spanish restaurant many consider the best restaurant in the world for more than two decades – and now he has an exhibit opening Feb. 28 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The famous chef will also be in Kansas City to give a public talk in March.

The museum says Ferran Adrià: Notes on CreativityVisualizing the Mind of a Master Chef “emphasizes the role of visual media such as drawing, diagrams and graphic design in Adrià’s exploration of creativity.”

Adrià led the Spanish restaurant elBulli for more than two decades, but closed the restaurant in July of 2011 to open a foundation that serves as a think-tank for creativity and innovation.

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

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

The exhibit includes some of the hundreds of notebooks the chef has filled with ideas, photos and sketches for new dishes. His ideas are presented as wall graphics, framed prints, models and product designs. A central element of the exhibition is a large, walk-in cube that, on its exterior, features large-scale photographic reproductions of the elBulli kitchen during service—conveying the scale, intense focus and energy of the creation and assembly of the complex dishes. The interior of the cube is lined with  “working boards” that lean against large-scale documentary photographs of the elBulli archive in Barcelona.

ElBulli served experimental cuisine, was only open six months during the year, and never served the same menu twice. During a typical 40-course meal, food was often served using specially designed tableware in order to present gastronomic inventions of unconventional form, such as foam or spheres. What looked like a piece of gold glass might have been crunchy Parmesan cheese. Foam, now a popular technique among chefs, was an invention brought to life by Adrià.

 “The exhibition reveals the mind and working process of an extraordinarily inquisitive and creative thinker,” said Catherine Futter, The Helen Jane and R. Hugh “Pat” Uhlmann Senior Curator of Architecture, Design and Decorative Arts.

“We are privileged to see why and how Adrià pushed the boundaries of our experience of food through constant research, experimentation, development and refinement. All the senses are engaged in cooking, and in this exhibition we are allowed to see the visual manifestations of Adrià’s creativity and experimentation. No other chef has taken such steps to delve into the history of gastronomy, record his findings, create a new language about food and share these efforts as Adrià has,” she said.


  • Opens Feb. 28 and closes Aug. 2.
  •  Adrià will also visit Kansas City for a weekend celebration of creativity, knowledge and culinary discipline, arriving March 28. He will give a public talk in Atkins Auditorium on Monday, March 30, at 5 p.m.
  • For the first four weekends, an exhibition ticket includes an enhanced experience with Kansas City’s top food purveyors, with tastings and reflections on culinary creativity.

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