His 35-course menu is so dazzling that two million people try to book his restaurant each year, 400 for every table, and even some food critics claim it has changed their lives forever. But Ferran Adria, the Spanish chef behind El Bulli, has revealed that he actually wants to eat at McDonald's.
In an interview with The Independent, Adria said it had been a long time since he had visited the burger giant, which has been attacked over its approach to animals, the environment and health and castigated by many as a symbol of US culinary imperialism. "But I want to go back," he added.
Adria – whose restaurant has been named the world's best for three years running by Restaurant magazine – said he did not think he could make a better hamburger for the money. He said he would like to visit McDonald's to "discover" its cooking.
As the head chef of El Bulli, in Girona, northern Spain, Adria creates scientifically-developed dishes such as menthol watermelon and hibiscus paper with blackcurrant and eucalyptus. A meal at El Bulli is a five-hour extravaganza, from which diners are sometimes forced to take a break after experiencing sensory overload.
In London to promote his new book, A Day at El Bulli, Adria said people's diet could be improved through education, and he praised Jamie Oliver for doing more than any other chef to publicise the benefits of healthy eating.
But he added: "I don't think people should come and say, 'McDonald's isn't good', if you don't give me an alternative; what is the alternative, for the same price? It's like saying everybody should be driving an Aston Martin or Rolls-Royce; most people don't drive them. Cars have the price they have.
"About five or 10 years ago, the mobile phone didn't exist and people could live without it. With the price you pay for a phone, you could be eating fresh fish every day. [But] if you ask most children would they rather have a phone or eat fresh fish, they are going to say 'a phone'."
Indicating that he was concerned that McDonald's would use his comments for marketing, Adria nonetheless suggested said that if the fast-food giant hired 10 of the world's top chefs they would not be able to make a better burger – for the price.
"Maybe... they could increase the price and make a hamburger of the best quality with fresh meat. And people would have the option to eat it – but it's going to cost three times as much," he said. "I've only been [to McDonald's] three times in my entire life, now it's ages since I went there. But I want to go back."
Adria, who closes El Bulli from January to May to develop new dishes, says most tastes and flavours have yet to be discovered.