Visiting the El Bulli Foundation is like visiting an alternate reality where utopias of learning and discovery exist and are the highest forms of human achievement. The objective is discovery, understanding the nature of food, how it is prepared and experienced. Ferran Adrià has a passion for this discovery and, after 25 years as head chef at El Bulli, he is devoting himself and his team to cataloging haute cuisine and creative expression in general.
The foundation’s walls are the inside of Adrià’s mind come to life – rooms with drawings and research pinned to foam board, books on all subjects, and a staff of artists and researchers delving into all of it. Ferran asks us questions meant to twist our expectations of food – is champagne still a drink if it’s served in a bowl and you eat it with a spoon? His mind and career has been keenly pursuing these questions for a quarter century.
Dom Perignon‘s Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy was at the foundation as well, discussing a new three year partnership between the esteemed wine makers and the El Bulli foundation with the hopes to “decode champagne”. We visited the new Dom Pérignon wing within the foundation and discussed their process of blending that yields a vintage to meet their standards. For them, tasting and decoding is a constant task, as they are tracking the changing characteristics of their wine and, in a macro sense, they look at the similarities and differences between many releases of Dom Pérignon, dating back to 1921. On a wall in one room of the foundation we see colored strings connecting Dom Pérignon releases, creating a stunning visual way to trace the complex flavors of their champagne expressions over time.
When I asked Richard what Dom Pérignon hoped to achieve by having one of the greatest creative minds decode their champagne over the course of three years, he said it was impossible to know on this journey of discovery…
I had no creative personality before I was working in the kitchen. I think this is a good example for how important it is to do what you really like to be able to be creative.
I’m here for a reason. It is the same reason I was in the restaurant for. To look for the limits. But there are no limits. Life isn’t long enough. It can take years and years and our brains aren’t clever enough to understand it all… However clever you are, there will always be something you don’t understand.
Why? Friendship! I believe that all good projects on earth start with the heart of the individuals. When you look at the success story of several things, it’s always about individuals. Somebody once told me, there is a stage in friendship where you get to come up with projects… Love would be kids, and friendship would be projects.
If you have not created the Big Bang, everything is an evolution, everything. The creative result – because creativity is just the capacity to create – depends on many things.
Decoding Dom Pérignon at elBulli Foundation
Ultimately, one way to explain what we are doing – one of the ways, not the way – is to reflect on the creative process and creativity. If we look at Dom Pérignon, it leads us to this reflection … If we are talking about the creative process, creativity it is our common language.
There is a big part which has to do with the experience. In your life you have lived Dom Pérignon in many ways. You have to decide which one is the best for you… Apparently wine is always something what comes together with the food, secondly. I understand that there might be moments when you go to a restaurant and it is just the way it is. But with Richard we wanted to created an experimental experience where Dom Pérignon could become the sun, surrounded by the food.
“We wanted to created an experimental experience where Dom Pérignon could become the sun, surrounded by the food.”
Creativity is going to the soul of Dom Pérignon…from the ground of the soul. It is very poetic. But life can be lived in a poetic way, even though you might be a practical person – because at the end you need to be practical – but you have to ask yourself why. There is a part in this project, trying to reach the soul in a certain way. Richard already has done this many times in his life. He is already doing it when he creates Dom Pérignon – but in another way.
Every person lives the experience in a different way. If you have never drunk champagne before, if you have never drunk Dom Pérignon – the experience is history for you. It is a different story for a person who never drunk champagne in his life to drink a glass of champagne than for a person who drinks champagne every day. If you only drink Dom Pérignon it’s another story again. And if you drink different vintages of Dom Pérignon – again.