Ferran Adrià’s Bullipedia set in motion

Jenni Naughton checks out the launch of legendary chef Ferran Adrià’s new Bullipedia project


May marked the official opening of Bullipedia, one of the three projects currently occupying prolific chef and “father of molecular cuisine”, Ferran Adrià. The announcement of the launch was made at El Salón Alimentaria, a revolutionary food fair in Barcelona in which, to quote El País, “mint chewing gum bears caffeine, salted meat smells like chocolate, chicken breasts are cooked with paper, and yoghurt is made with olive oil.”

Adrià stated that some 80 members of staff would be working with a view to synthesize all the knowledge gleaned on cuisine and gastronomy in an online encyclopedia. The talented team will comprise chefs, experts in different cooking techniques and materials, and members of creative professions. Together, they will work on a new system – which seeks to ‘codify cuisine virtually’ – at the elBulliFoundation’s offices in Barcelona. The latter, once a textile factory, has been converted into a laboratory where different foods, cooking equipment and techniques will be experimented with.

A project for future generations:

elBulliFoundation is every inch a project that looks to the future. At a recent lecture given to his peers at the University of Barcelona, Adriá said, “I no longer have restaurants… you and I achieved a revolution in haute cuisine. Now, the question is – what can we do so that new generations – who are much better than us – can continue working in this field?” A glance at the short video about Bullipedia, available on the Bullipedia website, reveals some of the exciting features we can soon look forward to. Scenes from the video show chefs working with experimental techniques and products and using a curated search engine. Through the latter, a chef can type in any ingredient – white asparagus for example – and different categories surrounding the ingredient appear; ‘dishes using white asparagus’, ‘technology used with this vegetable’, ‘other types of asparagus’, ‘recipes’, etc. Food is divided into families and detailed information on the history and nature of each product is provided. The ideas behind this wonderful project can be summarised by one quote which appears over a black screen at 0:38 of the YouTube video: “In a global and technological world, the cuisine of the past 50 years has experienced such an evolution that it requires a new codification”.

The encyclopedia will also offer tried-and-tested ‘food combinations”: one-line combinations of food that respect tradition and inspire creativity at once. For instance, if we return to white asparagus, we will find various established combinations using this vegetable, based on flavour and/or nutritional compatibility. Examples of deliciously healthy combinations include. “yoghurt, white asparagus, meat stock, garlic, olive oil, truffle oil, cream”; “white asparagus, tempura, soy sauce”; “white asparagus, pink grapefruit, ginger, mint, mustard, bacon, sugar, salt, orange”. The combinations highlight Adriàs belief in the possibility of ‘healthy pleasures’.

Obesity and society’s current penchant for processed and high-salt, high-sugar foods is a problem, yet only one of many other lifestyle factors that need to be addressed, Adrià believes. As he once told Journalist, Jordi Montaner, “Obesity is a serious problem, as sustained by cardiologists. But the fault is not of the food, but of the bad life of the diners. One can enjoy food to the full without jeopardising one’s health and that is the real challenge.

In many ways, Adria is right; the problem isn’t just our addiction to foods packed with ingredients like sugar; it is also the lack of time we spend in markets and in our own kitchen. Quite simply, we all need to take the time to prepare healthy meals. As Kwikmed.org notes, “Sugar is in everything we eat. The majority of people now rely, at least in part, on mass produced, pre-prepared foods from supermarkets rather than preparing their own foods and most don’t check the labels.”

In addition to turning to tried-and-tested combinations, Bullipedia will encourage chefs to dream up new creations, and to share these with the rest of the world. It can be said that Bullipedia’s loftiest aim is to “exhaustively scrutinise” the historical legacy of all ingredients – without doing so, says Adrià it is impossible for Chefs to truly delve into their own creativity. For the key is to study not only what has been done, but also what remains to be done.

Adrià has also hinted at the possibility of his encyclopedia eventually being used at universities, and indeed, many learning institutions already been in contact with the elBulliFoundation, with a view to working together to turn Bullipedia into a resource for university students. Adriá and his team are also currently working on the El Bulli 1846 (a culinary museum which will be open to the public and whose launch date is set for 2015) and elBulliDNA, comprising a team of extremely talented chefs, who will work for eight months to “compare and share the creative process”. They will then share the wonders they prepare with diners for just 20 days a year… in the words of Adriá, it will be “like nothing we have ever seen”.

Jenni Naughton 

Photography: Sam Mellish