It’s not every day that you meet world-famous Spanish master chef Ferran Adriá. Yesterday, a small entourage that included Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Director Julián Zugazagoitia, local media and I had the opportunity to accompany Adriá on an exploratory food tour through downtown Kansas City.
Adriá and his wife Isabel traveled from Spain to visit Kansas City this past weekend and promote the art exhibition Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity. The exhibition is on view through August 2, 2015 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Kansas City is only one of five cities in the world showing this touring exhibition.
The master chef is known for boundless creativity and innovative cooking that earned acclaim for more than 2o years at his destination restaurant elBulli in Spain. Adriá‘s contribution to the culinary world includes not only nearly 2,000 original dishes the chef and his culinary team created, but also the distinctive, deliberate methods that fostered creative exploration through documentation and critique as a generative process. His thorough, relentless process enabled him to meticulously explore food, technique and culinary equipment as a foundation for creative thought and execution.
Over time, Adriá‘s use of drawings, symbols, language and visual organization expanded both the philosophy and practice of how cuisine could evolve. As notes on the exhibit state:
He created an innovative multi-sensory vocabulary and structure that expanded the ways in which we encounter, consider and judge our relationship to food and art. Through sketches, models and diagrams Notes on Creativity charts the origins of Adrià’s intellectual and philosophical ideas about gastronomy that have forever changed how we understand food.
The exhibit is a must-see for anyone interested in food and the inner workings of a fertile mind that has examined food’s role and connection to society, culture and sense of place in striking new ways.
While in town, Adriá, his wife Isabel, Spanish-speaking interpreter Sofia Perez (also a food editor/writer from New York) and company visited J. Rieger and Co. in the East Bottoms. Andy Rieger, Ryan Maybee and head distiller Nathan Perry discussed the history of their blended whiskey brand and distillery. We enjoyed samples to start our day’s trek.
Later, we headed to Local Pig and Urban Provisions next door. At Local Pig, owner-chef Alex Pope and butcher Adam Northcraft prepared voluminous samples of charcuterie. It was difficult not to overindulge. Truffle chicken liver mousse? Lardo? Lonzino? Yes, please.
“Fantastico!”Adriá declared of Local Pig’s delicious fare.
Adriá visited with Pope and Northcraft while a butchery class was in progress. Pope even prepared a pork steak on the fly by request for his famous guest, known for eating with gusto. After a while, we met the proprietors at Urban Provisions. They prepared refreshing drinks and snacks using some of the foodstuffs they carry from KC Canning Co. and other vendors.
Next, we ventured for a quick walk around the City Market and circled back to Happy Gillis for a multi-course lunch prepared by owners Josh and Abbey-Jo Eans and their kitchen team. As always, the food was on point and delicious.
Afterward, the group headed to Haw Contemporary Gallery for a brief visit with gallery owner Bill Haw, Jr. and exhibiting artist Andy Brayman. We concluded the day with wine and Green Dirt Farm cheese samples at Amigoni Urban Winery.
The food-intensive day was an adventure for all. The event offered an opportunity to showcase business owners dedicated to craftsmanship, whether it was whiskey, charcuterie, wine or a meal using local ingredients. At one point, Adriá acknowledged the “passion” inherent in both the people and the craft we encountered as demonstrated through food, drink and hospitality. By day’s end, the group was weary and content, ready to rest, digest and push on. This food tour is only one of many events scheduled during Adrià’s visit in town.
Adriá‘s stay only lasts until Tuesday morning; however, his impact will be felt for a long time throughout the food community he has generously spent time with on this whirlwind tour. Adrià’s influence on food through his art is more challenging to assess than his established, long-standing culinary achievements. Still, his rare, unique exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins is worth seeking out to explore the ideas, creativity and documented process of a striking mind.