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Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, 10 years after closure of elBulli: ‘There’s no nostalgia’ | Culture

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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.

Ferran Adrià at the elBulli farewell bash on July 30, 2011.
Ferran Adrià at the elBulli farewell bash on July 30, 2011. JOSEP LAGO / AFP

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.

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How the cost of renting an apartment in Copenhagen compares to other cities in Denmark

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With the arguable exception of second city Aarhus, Copenhagen is significantly more expensive to rent housing than anywhere else in Denmark.

But the extra cost in the capital depends on where else in Denmark you compare with, as well as the type of housing you rent.

Private or general housing?

First, it is important to note the difference between the two main types of rental housing in Denmark: private rentals and almene boliger (literally, ‘general housing’), a form of subsidised housing.

For almene boliger, local municipalities put up 10 percent of building costs and in return have the right to decide who is allocated one in four available apartments, enabling them to provide housing to municipal residents who need it. The housing therefore plays a role in the social housing provision.

This type of housing is normally managed by a boligforening or housing association. Rent goes towards costs of running the housing and to pay off the housing association’s loans, which means property owners aren’t profiting from rents and prices are controlled.

Aside from housing assigned by the municipality, almene boliger are open for anyone. However, to get one, you must get to the top of a waiting list, which you join by signing up with associations which operate housing in the city where you live (or want to live).

In Copenhagen or Aarhus, it can take years to get to the top of these lists, while in smaller cities you might get an offer in weeks or even days.

As such, many newcomers to Denmark must turn to the private rental market if they are living in one of the main cities.

READ ALSO: Deposits, complaints and registration: Five key things to know about renting in Denmark

Private housing: Copenhagen clearly pricier 

A study conducted by housing research centre Bolius in November 2020 found the cost of a 56 square-metre apartment in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district to be 8,536 kroner per month.

The study, which was based on data from 2019 and 2020 from rental platforms boliga.dk and boligportal.dk, shows the average monthly cost of non-limited private apartments on Nørrebro, compared with 16 other locations in Denmark.

The cost takes into account the cost of a deposit (normally three months’ rent) and adds it to the average cost of renting the housing for five years (thereby assuming none of the deposit is returned to the tenant).

In comparison to the price in Nørrebro, the study found rent in Hillerød north of Copenhagen to be slightly less (8,218 kroner) for a slightly larger apartment (65 square metres).

Moving further out from Copenhagen, costs begin to drop even more.

In Kalundborg on the west coast of Zealand, you can rent a 71-square-metre flat for 5,167 kroner per month. Næstved, a commuter town between Copenhagen and the Great Belt Bridge, comes in at 6,039 kroner for an apartment at 72 square metres.

The cheaper rents are consistent further to the west, exemplified in Jutland cities Aalborg (5,544 kroner for 62 square metres), Vejle (6.696 kroner for 84 square metres) and Esbjerg (4,399 kroner for 54 square metres).

Although Aarhus is not included in the study, third-largest city Odense is. Here, there is still a significant saving on Copenhagen, with 8,488 kroner, a similar rent to that in Nørrebro, getting you an apartment over 50 percent bigger at 82 square metres.

General (almene) housing: closer, but still higher in Greater Copenhagen

Rent prices for almene or subsidised housing were most recently analysed in a 2020 report by Landsbyggefonden (National Building Foundation), a support institution for the social housing sector.

According to that report, the rent for family housing (meaning housing not reserved for students or seniors) is “on average, approximately 100-200 kroner per square metre higher [per year, ed.] east of the Great Belt Bridge than west of it”.

Of the five administrative regions, average rent for family subsidised housing is highest in Greater Copenhagen at 906 kroner per square metre for a year’s rent.

The lowest rents can be found in South Denmark, where the yearly cost is 722 kroner per square metre.

Zealand is the region that comes closest to Copenhagen on the costs for this type of regular housing. Here, tenants can expect to pay 859 kroner per square metre in a year. The equivalent costs in Central Jutland and North Jutland and 778 kroner and 747 kroner respectively.

The study also places Greater Copenhagen as the most expensive region when rents are presented as the median monthly rent for family housing.

Here, the median values are split into five categories based on apartment size, with Copenhagen coming out as the most expensive region for each category.

For example, the median monthly rents for apartments between 50-60 square metres are as follows: 5,039 kroner (Greater Copenhagen); 4,913 kroner (Zealand); 4,541 kroner (Central Jutland); 4,388 kroner (North Jutland); 4,236 kroner (South Denmark). The national average is 4,667 kroner.

Sources: Domea, Bolius, Landsbyggefonden



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Officials pushed for State to buy direct provision centres from private firms

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The Government should buy a number of privately-owned direct provision centres as a “priority” as it would be more “cost effective” for the State to run the facilities for asylum seekers, international protection officials have said.

The savings arising from owning the accommodation centres rather than paying private contractors to do so “could be considerable”, departmental briefing documents provided to Minister for Children and Integration Roderic O’Gorman last year state.

The vast majority of direct provision centres are currently owned and run by private companies, with accommodation providers having received some €1.6 billion since 1999, including €183 million last year.

The latest figures show some 7,150 people are in the system of seven State-owned sites and 39 private centres. A further 24 commercially-owned premises are being used to provide emergency accommodation for asylum seekers.

The briefing document, released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act, says that housing people seeking asylum in State-owned centres would provide the “best protection from the vulnerability of present market reliance”.

“They are also much more cost efficient to run, and the State owns the asset,” it notes.

The document suggested that State centres should aim to accommodate 5,000 people, and “allowing the private sector to supply the rest is regarded as an achievable and reasonable target”.

The purchase of existing centres from private providers “to immediately boost the State’s footprint in this area should be considered as a priority,” the internal document said.

“Some service providers may be open to this and the market appears to be favourable at present,” it said.

The internal briefing suggested the department could then seek private companies or NGOs to run the centres, which would be a “competitive cost option”.

‘Badly needed’

Ongoing maintenance for centres owned by the State was also “badly needed,” as current pressures on the Office of Public Works (OPW) meant it was not possible “for immediate repairs to be done if required”.

“In exploring the model of more State centres, we need to agree and acquire a capital budget,” the briefing stated.

“State land does not require planning permission for new centres as the Minister has a power under the Acts, whereby the OPW can grant the planning permission and this is usually a three-month process. It is not subject to appeal.”

The document says that State centres “can also have a bigger footprint as it will be a permanent fixture in the locality”. In recent years a number of plans for private providers to open direct provision centres in regional towns have been met with protests from locals and anti-immigration activists.

Mr O’Gorman’s department has sought to reform the direct provision system and is seeking to replace the network of centres with a new system of accommodation and supports by the end of 2024.

New centres

A department spokesman confirmed the State has not bought any new centres since the briefing note was written. The spokesman said under the planned overhaul of direct provision, asylum-seekers who arrived into the country would initially be housed in a number of reception and integration centres.

Asylum-seekers will spend a maximum of four months in the reception centres before moving into housing secured through Approved Housing Bodies.

“These centres will be State-owned and purpose built to provide suitable accommodation for approximately 2,000 people at any one time, to cater for the flow-through of the 3,500 applicants over a 12-month period,” he said.


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IN PICTURES: French daredevil takes hair-raising Seine tightrope walk

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Attached by a strap to a safety lanyard, 27-year-old Nathan Paulin slowly progressed barefoot on a line stretched across the river between the Eiffel Tower and the Chaillot Theatre.

He stopped for a few breaks, sitting or lying on the rope.

Paulin holds an umbrella as he performs, for the second time, on a 70-metre-high slackline spanning 670 metres between the Eiffel Tower and the Theatre National de Chaillot. (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

“It wasn’t easy walking 600 metres, concentrating, with everything around, the pressure … but it was still beautiful,” he said after the performance on Saturday.

He said obtaining the necessary authorisations had been a difficulty for him, plus “the stress linked to the audience, the fact that there are a lot of people”.

Photo: (Photo by THOMAS COEX / AFP)

Paulin, holder of several world records, performed the feat to celebrate France’s annual Heritage Day – when people are invited to visit historic buildings and monuments that are usually closed to the public.

He said his motivation was “mainly to do something beautiful and to share it and also to bring a new perspective on heritage, it is to make heritage come alive”.

He had already crossed the River Seine on a tightrope, on Heritage Day in 2017.



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