From "spherified olives" to liquid ham, Ferran Adrià's Dali-esque dishes have previously earned him a place at one of Europe's most prestigious modern art shows. But now the Spanish Surrealist chef has been hailed for his contribution to science.
Barcelona University awarded the owner of one of the world's best restaurants, El Bulli, an honorary doctorate for "scientific and cultural merit" yesterday. Adrià was honoured by the university's faculty of chemistry for his contributions to science, and in particular to "chemicals and food".
The gastronome, whose restaurant near Barcelona was twice voted the best in the world by Restaurant Magazine, is famous for coming up with dishes that could easily pass for concoctions more often seen in chemical laboratories. Plates such as Kellogg's paella, made with Rice Krispies and shrimp heads, and his vanilla-scented potato mash are all dreamed up in his "laboratory" in Barcelona, during the six months of the year when El Bulli is closed.
Adrià said: "This is not an honoris causa for me, but for everyone who dedicates themselves to gastronomy. I have fought all my life to make cooking part of our culture. The important fact during the past 50 years is the relation between science and cooking."
But he did admit that when he started he had no idea about chemistry. Professor Claudi Mans, head of the university's chemistry department, said: "Each real artist is also a scientist, and each real scientist is also an artist." Professor Mans praised Adrià's use of scientific methods to prepare the 120 new dishes for El Bulli each year.
In May, Adrià caused a stir when he was invited to take part in one of Europe's top art jamborees, the five-yearly Documenta art show in Kassel, Germany. The invitation stuck in the throat of the Spanish art establishment, who condemned it as the "banalisation of art".
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