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It has been 10 years since the triple Michelin-starred elBulli restaurant closed on July 30, 2011, but it feels as though it remains open due to a legacy that has extended its fame and footprint far beyond its original location in the coastal town of Roses, in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region.
Its principal chef, the world renowned Ferran Adrià, says he still does not fully understand what happened there. This past decade has been dedicated to trying to decipher the magic through a number of innovative projects, such as his more than 20 encyclopedias. Meanwhile, he continues mentally and actively linked to the restaurant through the creativity center set up by the elBulli Foundation, displaying the same groundbreaking spirit that once revolutionized world cuisine.
“Nostalgia? None,” he says. Asked what he would do if he were to reopen, he replies, “I would do the same thing, although I still don’t really know what that entailed.” A kid from L’Hospitalet de Llobregat in Catalonia who started out as a dishwasher in a hotel in Castelldefels, Adrià managed to topple France as the universal gastronomic reference. He made a name for himself making paellas, then dismantled the world food hierarchy with a campsite restaurant in Cala Montjoi in Girona, reached via a pot-holed road where people would be encouraged to eat with their fingers.
Ten years ago, he prepared his last dinner with his mentor and renowned Basque chef Juanmari Arzak, his brother Albert and with a number of the many chefs who had worked with him in his kitchen and now had Michelin stars by the fistful, such as Massimo Bottura, René Redzepi, the Roca family and Andoni Luis Aduriz. The 50 guests started out with an aperitif – a version of Adrià’s dry Martini, consisting of a reconstituted olive bubble to be placed on the tongue, allowing the gin and vermouth to evaporate. This was followed by around 50 dishes such as pistachio ravioli, liquid chicken croquettes and rose petals with ham marinated in melon juice.
After the cooking was done, the legendary chef who had been voted the best in the world 10 seasons running hung up his chef’s coat, but kept his drive and imagination alive. “Now I have another role,” he says. “Instead of creating dishes, I help to create creators.” He closed elBulli because he became convinced that he had gone as far as he could go as a chef. “We couldn’t go any further,” he says. But the creations he came up with from the time he was hired by Juli Soler in 1984, together with those of the 2,500 chefs he mentored, are still a source of wonder. Among other techniques, he pioneered the use of foam and liquid nitrogen and introduced extended menus and eating without cutlery, all of which had been unthinkable in the world of haute cuisine. “Well, I’m proud of all those things,” says Adrià. “They are techniques recognized in a number of restaurants and on the TV show Master Chef and they emerged from our experiments in elBulli.” But he considers other aspects of the experience more important. “To start with, freedom as an unbreakable rule, as an ideology, as well as challenging kids from different backgrounds to explore their own boundaries and turn what they knew upside down,” he says. “Also, the building of new bridges and new dialogues between gastronomy and other disciplines.”
Now I have another role. Instead of creating dishes, I help to create creators
Adrià lists the links that were forged then and those he believes need forging going forward. “We were pioneers in a West-East dialogue; with Japan, with science, design and art,” he says. Of the latter, he highlights his participation in the Documenta contemporary art exhibition in Kassel, Germany; it was the first time a chef was invited to share space in such an event. “I drew an important conclusion from that experience,” he says. “It is clear to me that we chefs are creatives and not artists. But that doesn’t mean that as a creative type I can’t establish an exciting exchange with an artist and see where we can go together.”
One destination for Adrià has been Harvard University with a course he has been teaching since 2010. He has also been the recipient of four honorary degrees awarded by universities in Aberdeen, Barcelona, Valencia and Montreal.
Another achievement has been the creation of dozens of bullipedias filled with a cocktail of knowledge that combines gastronomy with other disciplines. And now with the coronavirus pandemic, Adrià is once again taking a fresh look at the culinary landscape. “It is not normal that 50% of restaurants close after five years,” he says. “Along with creativity, product and technique, it needs to be stressed that we must also learn about numbers, because this is a business.”
Having said that, he is pleased with his own trajectory. “I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned over the years for anything,” he says. “When we closed, my colleagues, partners and I believed that in two years we would understand what we had done at elBulli. We’ve been at it for 10 years and we’re still figuring it out; from why a small company became a reference at business schools to how Juli Soler changed the role of head waiter forever.”
Attempts to address these questions have been made in various exhibitions that have dealt with the elBulli experience and also in a documentary that Movistar+ will release in September, called Las huellas de elBulli (or The footprint of elBulli). In 2023, the original premises in Cala Montjoi will reopen and showcase everything regarding the exploration and evolution of what Adrià discovered in the kitchen; knowledge that has elevated this dishwasher to iconic status in the world of culinary science and creation.
English version by Heather Galloway.
Senior figures in Washington stand behind Belfast Agreement and protocol, McDonald says
Senior figures in United States politics have made it clear that the government of Boris Johnson in the UK will face negative consequences internationally if it attempts to rupture or dispense with the Northern Ireland protocol, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.
In a presentation at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Thursday she said the protocol was “necessary, operable and going nowhere, despite what Boris Johnson might wish to believe”.
She said she had met with “people of considerable influence” in the US Congress and in the Biden administration on her visit to the US this week and they all stood four square behind the Belfast Agreement and the protocol.
“I heard yesterday on the Hill the clearest possible articulation across the board that any notion of walking away from the protocol would not be acceptable to the United States.”
Asked about a report in the Financial Timed that Washington had delayed lifting tariffs on UK steel and aluminium products amid concerns about threats by the UK to invoke article 16 of the protocol, Ms McDonald said this was a matter for the Biden administration.
However, she said: “There is no doubt where the US stands. If Johnson believes he can walk away from the protocol, he is wrong and there will be consequences for Britain if he chooses that course of action.”
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, who was also in Washington DC on Thursday, said if the lifting of tariffs was being delayed due to concerns about the protocol, he would argue at a meeting with the US state department that it had “got it wrong” in its view on what article 16 was about.
“If people say we have to adhere to the protocol and article 16 is part of the protocol then it becomes a legitimate thing you can use.”
“It is not about whether you should or should not use it. It is about how you should use it.
“You should use it in a narrow sense of a particular issue that is causing economic or societal harm in Northern Ireland, for example, medicines .”
“If the medicine issue has not been fixed and is starting to affect the people of Northern Ireland, it would be right to instigate article 16 to focus minds on that issue.”
Ms McDonald also told the press club event that she expected the United States would “be on the right side” on the controversy over British plans for an amnesty in relation to killings during the Troubles.
She said the British government was going to the ultimate point to keep the truth from the people about its war in Ireland.
She said the Johnson government’s plans would mean “in effect no possibility of criminal action, civil actions or even inquests into killings in the past”.
Ms McDonald also forecast that a point was coming over the coming five or 10 years where referenda would be held on the reunification of Ireland. She urged the Irish government to establish a citizen’s assembly to consider preparation for unity.
She also said “there will be need for international support and international intervention to support Ireland as we move to transition from partition to reunification”.
Separately, asked about a recent Sinn Féin golf fundraising event that was held in New York, Ms McDonald said the money that was raised would be spent on campaigning and lobbying in the US.
She described it as a patriotic expression by people in the US who had a deep interest in Ireland and the peace process.
Drop in cancer diagnoses as high as 14 per cent during pandemic, early data shows
The drop in the number of cancers detected during the Covid-19 pandemic could be as high as 14 per cent, preliminary data has suggested.
A report from the National Cancer Registry said it was still too early to provide “definitive answers” on whether pandemic hospital restrictions last year led to a reduction in the number of cancers diagnosed.
The registry’s annual report said an estimated decrease of 14 per cent in detections pointed to the “potential scale” of Covid-19’s impact on other healthcare.
A separate analysis of data on microscopically verified cancers diagnosed last year showed a reduction of between 10 and 13 per cent, the report said.
The drop in confirmed cancer cases, when compared with previous years, could be partly accounted for by “incomplete registration of cases already diagnosed”, it said.
Prof Deirdre Murray, director of the National Cancer Registry, said there were “clear signals that, as expected in Ireland, the number of cancer diagnoses in 2020 will be lower than in previous years”.
The shortfall in cancers being diagnosed would present a “major challenge” in the coming years, with lengthy waiting lists and disruptions to screening services “all too commonplace” already, she said.
Ms Power said it was frightening to think of the people who were living with cancer but did not know it yet. She added that existing cancer patients were “terrified” of having treatments delayed due to the recent rise in Covid-19 cases.
The registry’s report said there were about 44,000 tumours identified each year between 2017 and 2019.
Not counting non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common cancer diagnoses were for breast and prostate cancer, which made up almost a third of invasive cancers found in women and men respectively.
For men this was followed by bowel and lung cancer, and melanoma of the skin. Lung cancer was the second most common cancer for women, followed by colorectal cancer and melanoma of skin.
Nearly a third of deaths in 2018 were attributed to cancer, with lung cancer the leading cause of death from cancer, the report said.
The second, third and fourth most common cancers to die from in men were bowel, prostate and oesophagus cancer. For women breast, bowel and ovarian cancers were the most common fatal cancers.
The report said there were almost 200,000 cancer survivors in Ireland at the end of 2019, with breast cancer patients making up more than a fifth of the total.
The research found cancer rates among men had dropped between 2010 and 2019, with mortality rates decreasing or remaining the same across nearly every type of cancer. Rates of cancer detected among women had increased between 2008 and 2019, with mortality rates for most cancers decreasing.
The report said the five-year survival rate from cancer had increased to 65 per cent for the period 2014 to 2018, compared with 42 per cent two decades previous.
There had been “major improvement” in survival rates for most major cancers, however, the research noted the chances of survival varied significantly depending on the type of cancer.
Prostate, melanoma of the skin and testis cancer had survival rates of more than 90 per cent, followed closely by breast and thyroid cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma. Pancreas, liver, oesophagus and lung cancers had much lower five-year survival rates on average, the report said.
‘I was so proud to be Navajo and so proud to be Irish’
Senior figures in Washington stand behind Belfast Agreement and protocol, McDonald says
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