The recipe for creativity

At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a peek into the highly visual mind of celebrated chef Ferran Adrià

A Ferran Adrià plating diagram, circa 2000–2004. Credit: Submitted image

WHITTIER — Don’t come for the drawings. Come for the ideas.

It’s rare to hear a curator downplay the quality of the art he’s showing, but Brett Littman, executive director of The Drawing Center in New York City, was frank about the “childlike” qualities of Spanish chef Ferran Adrià’s drawings: colorful but sketchily rendered diagrams of new dishes, as well as some of the tools and utensils that had to be invented to prepare and eat the avant-garde cuisine he developed at elBulli. Adrià took over the kitchen at elBulli, located on Spains’ Costa Brava, in 1987, transformed it into a theater for his innovative style of “techno-emotional” gastronomy and earned three Michelin stars before shuttering the place in 2011.

Littman was one of those lucky members of the jet set who managed to score a table at elBulli in its final months. He and his wife arrived at 8 p.m. and left 37 courses later at 2:30 a.m., but only after exchanging art books with the chef and initiating a correspondence that led, four years later, to this show.

“Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity” portrays one of the most famous and controversial chefs of this chef-obsessed era as a highly visual thinker, the type who, given an egg, might construct a matrix of all possible preparations on graph paper before ever cracking the shell. Some of the most interesting bits are wall-sized reproductions of hand-drawn flowcharts, in which Adrià diagrams his culinary process.

Littman said Adrià’s highly creative, intellectual approach to cuisine produced one of the most playful, amazing and challenging meals of his life, an experience he compared to performance art. It was not, however, the best tasting.

“His end goal may not be flavor,” Littman said. “It may be happiness.”


Ferran Adria: Notes on Creativity

When: Through Jan. 3

Where: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 3rd Ave. S.

Info: 870–3000,

A still from “1846,” a movie that documents all 1,846 dishes created at elBulli. Submitted image.