El Bulli movie

El Bulli is closing on Sunday right around the time that a new documentary, Cooking in Progress, about the famed restaurant is coming out. Along with the movie, there are a bunch of interesting links out there the last couple days.

*The NY Times reviewed it here.
*With the closing, the media has flocked and told us about it. This article is indicative of the “My Meall at El Bulli” genre.
*Earlier in the month, Mark Bittman wrote about cooking with Ferran Adria.
*An interview with Cooking in Progress maker, Gereon Wetzel.
*From several months ago, but still interesting, the NYTimes talks to several chefs about Adria’s legacy. David Chang:

The fact is, he moved the entire spectrum of food in every direction, so that as a chef, even if you don’t like his style, he redefined everything you do. Closing down for half the year to do research? Changing the entire menu, 50 new dishes, every year? Amazing.

*Xanthe Clay calls Adria, “the genius that inspired a thousand restaurant disasters“.
*And an interview in GQ talking about ‘The Best Chef in the World’:

That title doesn’t exist. That person doesn’t exist. Certainly when one is talking about the best chef in the world, one is referring to the influence that person has had in the field. If you have a lot of influence, then you’re one of the best. That individual doesn’t exist, and after all I don’t work to be the best, I work to enjoy life. The consequence of that is that you’re recognized for your work. I like to be recognized, but I don’t work for recognition.

Trailer above via Kottke.

El Bulli movie

Olive Garden Italian cooking school not be what it claims?

I don’t want to shock anyone, but we may have been mislead. I think I saw the Olive Garden commercial touting their cooking school about 15 times before the message internalized and I realized that Olive Garden was talking about a cooking school to which they send their chefs and managers. I don’t know if any of you have been to an Olive Garden lately, but I think they need to take a look at the curriculum. Turns out the school is more of a vacation, then educational facility.

I was a manager at Olive Garden and was sent to their culinary institute in Tuscany back in 2007. It was more like a hotel, during the off-season, with restaurant on site. They would let the Olive Garden come and stay in all the rooms and they would use the restaurant as a classroom for maybe an hour here or there and talk about spices or fresh produce for a minute before going site seeing all day. The only time we saw the “chef” was when she made a bolognese sauce while taking pictures with each of us to send to our local newspapers. Basically, yes, they send people to Italy every year. As a manager I still got paid my salary and didn’t have to use vacation time, it counted as “work”. They paid for everything from meals, sightseeing, flight, everything except souvenirs. But in return, they sent pre-written articles to out local newspaper with fake quotes from me and a group photo. Also every year when they would run the promotion, I was supposed to wear a special “chef” coat and make conversation with guests who ordered the promotional meals.

Olive Garden Italian cooking school not be what it claims?

La Bernardin’s 129 service rules

Here’s a list of the 129 service rules for La Bernardin in New York City from a chapter in Eric Ripert’s 2008 book, ‘On the Line’. The list was published on 4 or 5 different pages by the Star Tribune, and I figured they’d be better all on one page.

1. Not acknowledging guests with eye contact and a smile within 30 seconds. First impressions count!
2. Not thanking the guests as they leave. Last impression!
3. Not remembering the guests’ likes and dislikes!
4. Not opening the front door for guests.
5. Silverware set askew on the tables.
6. Tabletop that isn’t picture perfect.
7. Forks with bent tines.
8. Unevenly folded napkins.
9. Chipped glassware.
10. Tables not completely set when guests are being seated.
11. Dead or wilted flowers on the tables.
12. Tables that are not leveled.
13. Salt and pepper shakers that are half empty.
14. Salt or sugar crusted inside the shakers.
Continue reading “La Bernardin’s 129 service rules”

La Bernardin’s 129 service rules

Pop up restaurants in Boston

I’ve been doing a lot of food events around Boston the last year and a half or so, and I’m not sure how good of a job I do posting about them here. One of the things I’ve been working on is pop up restaurants. We were featured in a story in the Globe about our pop up in a coffee shop. For Valentine’s Day Weekend, we’re putting together a restaurant inside of a chocolate factory. Gotta say, that’s a pretty good Valentine’s idea, huh?

Pop up restaurants in Boston

Ferran Adrià‘s new restaurant(s)

Ferran Adrià and his brother Albert have opened a new tapas bar, 41 Degrees, in Barcelona, and by next month, they’ll open a restaurant next door called Tickets.

The Adrià brothers, Ferran and Albert, plan to open a sit-down tapas restaurant near by next month. It will be called Tickets, will cater for 50 diners at a time and will take reservations. Last year, Adrià announced that he would close El Bulli for two years. From 2014, the restaurant in the town of Roses, about 100 miles north of Barcelona, will reopen as a creative culinary foundation serving the odd meal for the lucky few.

Also noted in the article, El Bulli was losing £412,000 a year. This translates to roughly a lot of US dollars, and helps explain why it’s closing/reopening as something more of a culinary foundation. I’d heard it was losing, but didn’t know how much.

While we’re here, I have a couple other Adria articles I’d tabbed, but not linked to yet:

Here’s a 2003 NY Times Magazine article trumpeting Spain’s transcendence in the world of food.

Spain rising, France resting. The more attention I paid, the more I noticed everywhere this invidious comparison, between smug, stagnant France and innovative, daring Spain. It seemed, as Trotter suggested, a shift in the zeitgeist.

Profile of Adrià and El Bulli in Vanity Fair.

Book excerpt from The Inside Story of El Bulli and the Man Who Reinvented Food.

2006 profile from the New York Times, and 2007 profile from The Observer.

Those who want to live experiences cannot be cowards. We endeavor a cuisine for non-cowards.”

Ferran Adrià‘s new restaurant(s)

The Spotted Pig in The New Yorker

The New Yorker recently profiled The Spotted Pig chef April Bloomfield and among other things discussed what it takes to work for her:

If David Chang’s band of renegades are the Red Sox of the New York restaurant world, Bloomfield’s cooks are the Yankees, square and conscientious. When I asked her what kind of people she likes to hire, she replied, “Nobody weird. Nobody with dreadlocks.” She paused a minute, and added, “Well, no white guys with dreadlocks.” Her cooks wear black pants and black shoes. “People with chile peppers on their chef pants shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen.”

I also thought this was interesting, about why a restaurant would want a farm. Status symbol.

They both want a farm, where they can grow vegetables and raise livestock for use in their restaurants. A farm is attractive for two reasons. The first is that Bloomfield can’t always procure the calibre of ingredients she wants, since many of the city’s top suppliers are beholden to more established chefs. “They get all funny,” Bloomfield said. “I’m not Daniel Boulud.” The second is that a farm, in the hyper-competitive New York restaurant world, is a sign of clout and longevity, the breadbasket of an empire. Bloomfield and Friedman have been looking at land in New Paltz and Wassaic.

The Spotted Pig in The New Yorker

Restaurants Raising Their Own Animals

Chef Will Gilson of Cambridge’s Garden at the Cellar is raising two cute pigs, Porcini and Truffle, for slaughter later this summer in anticipation of a dinner at the James Beard House in New York. The pigs are being raised on a farm, not at the restaurant, but I still think it’s notable. I like eating meat, but I also think people should make a conscious decision about what they’re eating. Articles like this that put a cute face on your pork chop force you to think about it. More chefs raising their own animals (hopefully as close to the restaurant as possible) will mean better educated eaters, and I hope more local chefs adopt this way of sourcing meat.

Restaurants Raising Their Own Animals

Valentine’s Day Restaurant Dos and Don’ts

Lots of tidbits from this Gourmet article about proposing at restaurants and eating out on Valentine’s Day. For those who don’t have the time, here all the hints:

Don’t put the ring in crème brûlée.
Don’t put the ring into a salad and then order caviar.
Do have “a special plate with a trapdoor and a secret compartment.”
Don’t force your date to order a dessert if it’s hiding a ring.
Don’t paint “Will you marry me?” on a plate.
Don’t turn her down at a restaurant if you think she might throw plates.
Don’t call the co-owner at home to tell them the engagement is off and not to tell anyone.
Do visit the restaurant a week before and confer with the manager.
Do get seated in the middle of the restaurant.
Do find out what a cloche is because some restaurants use them to hide rings.
Do print a custom with your question under the Specials.
Do ask in advance and have your mother-in-law pay for dinner.
Do sit privately if you’re going to ask for a divorce.
Do bring your mistress on February 13th.
Do fill a private room with rose petals, candles, and everything good on the menu if you cheat on your wife.
Do not touch your partner sexually at the restaurant or have sex in the bathroom.
Do stop if asked by a matronly waitress.
Do try to book a six-top at a restaurant on 2/14. That’s an easy reservation because everyone is booking as a couple.
Do ask for the manager’s help in inviting your 50 closest friends to a shotgun wedding.
Do leave a hotel key in a box for your husband, asking that it be delivered in 5 minutes.

Valentine’s Day Restaurant Dos and Don’ts

Free Barcelona, Spain Travel Guide

It took seven and a half months, but I’ve finally finished the review of our trip to Barcelona and Sitges, Spain in June, 2008. I started it as a review to make remembering our trip easier. As I was writing it up, I decided to make it more of a travel guide to hopefully convince you to go to Barcelona. It was an amazing trip.

There’s a lot of information in here. The guide is broken up into 10 chapters linked below with the highlights of the day for easy reference:
Day 1: Boston to Barcelona: Plaça de Catalunya
Day 2: More Walking: Santa Maria del Mar, Picasso Museum, Ciutadella, Euskal Etxea
Day 3: Gaudi and Eating: Casa Milà
Day 4: More Gaudi: Parc Guell, Sagrada Família
Day 5: Sitges and Birthdays: Barcelona Cathedral, Parrots Hotel, The Beach House
Day 6: Sitges and Beach
Day 7: Sitges and Montserrat: Montserrat
Day 8: Sitges
Day 9: Too Hot to Shop: Aparthotel Calabria, La Boqueria, Tapaç 24
Day 10: Montjuic: Montjuic

Barcelona is very beautiful. Parts are dirty and smelly, but those parts are serviced 24/7 by sanitation workers. I was struck by how most of the buildings look like they were from the 50s or 60s and wondered what makes the replacement cycle so much faster in cities like Boston. The city is eminently walkable, and the transportation system adds to the ease in getting around. If you like looking out over cities from heights, you’re in luck. There are at least 6 different tourist destinations that offer great views of the city.

Bottom line?
Where to stay: Hotel Regencia Colon – Perfectly situated and affordably priced.
Must visit landmaks: Santa Maria del Mar, La Boqueria, Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà, Montserrat, Sitges
Must eat: Tapaç 24, Euskal Etxea, Chocolateria Valor
Must shop: Kukuxumusu, Xocoa

For my mom, here’s a slideshow of our trip and a collection of videos from different points.

Also, please play around with this map I made of all the places we went to or should have gone to. I spent days before we went researching restaurants, hotels, landmarks and popping them onto this map to make it easy to figure out what to do in each neighborhood once we got there. The price of this travel guide is worth it just for this free map.

In closing, I hope you’ll go Barcelona because it’s awesome and you going will validate our decision to go. If you do go, I hope you find this Travel Guide helpful because would validate the time I put into it. Because after all, what’s a blog based Travel Guide if not an adventure in navel gazing?

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Free Barcelona, Spain Travel Guide