Adria’s “Notes on Creativity” is the first major exhibition dedicated to the visualization and drawing practices of this culinary master. The exhibition presents drawings, notes, notebooks, diagrams, pictograms and prototypes by Adrià and his collaborators. We caught up with Adrià at the exhibit, which is currently running at the Drawing Center in New York City.
I think there are a lot of stories that magazines tell with photo essays that could have a different impact if they were told through drawings. I created an illustrated essay for Time magazine years ago, titled “A Vision of Cuba," a detailed accounting of stories I came across while driving around Cuba in the 1990s.
"Back in Bolivia, in Cochabamba, there is a busy avenue, called El Prado, with a strip of restaurants, bars and chicherias. It’s where everyone goes to take out a date or family. There’s a beautiful promenade at the end of the avenue, but right before it, you’ll see Oogi. It’s a modest looking salteña shop, which boasts, I think, the best salteñas in Bolivia."
Every country plays as they are. Brazil wasn't truthful to themselves, to what they are supposed to be. I mean playing soccer as the expression of culture. And that's why they failed. Brazil has to be fun, has to be creative, and has to have players with the characteristics that historically have represented Brazilian soccer.
"A traditional Sandwich de Chicharron Peruano is made with pork shoulder brazed for a long time. The pork is then sliced and served on a roll, with mayo, salsa criolla—onions, cilantro, lime—and sliced sweet potatoes. In Peru, the sandwich is eaten for breakfast or Sunday brunch."
"Churros are an ancient food invented by Egyptians: water and wheat mixed and fried in the shape of cinnamon stick. But most people know them as a traditional dessert from Spain."
"A pupusa is a corn tortilla shape stuffed with various types of filling, typically pork, beans and cheese. It comes from El Salvador, where it is the national dish. The second Sunday in November is national pupusa day."
"I started selling Cuban-style, fresh corn tamales at Zafra, when we opened our restaurant in 2000. Today we make about five different types from different parts of Latin America. We felt that tamales were an essential part of the Latin American diet, and one of the most spectacular foods from our part of the world. It was inconceivable to open a Cuban-Latino restaurant without tamales."
"Back in Buenos Aires, empanadas are what people order for parties at home. They can be a full meal or an appetizer. My favorite two places in Buenos Aires are La Cocina and La Tucumanita, in Barrio Norte, two blocks away from where I used to live."
"Arepas are made with corn and come in many varieties: pelao, de huevo, de mote, etc. I started selling arepas thirty years ago. It was the only way for me to survive in New York City and feed my kids."
"I first encountered Colombian-style hot dogs in Miami while I was living there for school. We would stumble into these crazy all-night places in suburban strip malls that were cranking house music and filled with Latin club kids wearing sunglasses at 5 a.m."
"Ceviche is a perfect blend of fish marinated in citrus juices. There are many theories about the origin of ceviche, but all we know is: it was a dish created by the gods to give us a taste of heaven."
"In Mexico, you don’t really ask, “What do you want to eat tonight?” It’s more like: “Let’s go eat tacos, okay?” It’s such a quick and easy meal, with no super-production attached to it. You can be in and out with a full stomach in ten minutes, so you can enjoy the rest of your day on the beach."
I know how to cook, but I had to teach myself the foods of Latin America, because being Cuban doesn’t prepare you to cook Peruvian or Mexican. I always say this book could only have been done in this country. If I had been in Peru, I wouldn’t have been able to get the chiles from Mexico. If I had been in Mexico I wouldn’t have been able to get Andean hot peppers.
For me, the past decade or so of Latin American film production has been, artistically, the most interesting decade since the Sixties. The current movement can be said to have started in Argentine at the end of the 1990s, but soon there was exciting new work coming from Mexico, Chile, and other countries as well.
I remember when I was in Florence for one summer, where I would eat pasta for lunch for 6,000 liras which is maybe like $3, and it was amazing, better than any pasta in any restaurant where you would pay 30 euros. I love food. Food is one of my vices.
Customers have to come all the way here. You need to present something that people will drive out for. When we opened we offered a more conservative cuisine, quite traditional and reminiscent of Navarra, where I come from. In 1995 we made a turn into a more personal cuisine, which evolved into the signature cuisine that we are now known for.
The “List” projects, from their inception have been multi-media. I direct and co-produce. I also photograph all of the subjects on my large-format view camera. The interviews, aside from being used in the film, become text for the books. The photographs find their way to the walls of museums and onto the pages of our books. True synergy.
I’m obsessed with el DF de México—I lived there for a year and try to go back as often as possible. Oaxaca was a revelation to me. I came to this particular party late. Colombia was another country I fell for hard. I’ve been to Bogotá three times, and each trip I ate until I practically burst.
The other day I was re-reading My Mexico for its re-publication by Texas University Press and it brought back so many memories of my journeys and the people who had shared their recipes with me. This is so important.