elBulli

Charles-Antoine Crête

Year: 2003

Born in Montreal, Charles-Antoine Crête had accumulated some interesting experiences by the time he started at elBulli. He started working in kitchens as a teenager, but took time off to stage at Tetsuya’s in Sydney, and to help open a new restaurant there. He also spent time in southern Australia working as a tuna fisherman and on an olive farm before moving on to first Japan, and then Barcelona. Today, he is chef de cuisine at the same restaurant where he began his career: Toqué!, in Montreal.

How did you end up staging at elBulli?

I really wanted to stage there, so I must have sent my resumé in eighty times. But I never heard back. Finally, my boss just bought me a ticket to fly to Spain and told me to go. So I showed up there—I remember it was pouring rain and I was soaking wet—and asked to speak with Albert. He had no idea who I was. I was like, I’m Charles, Charles Canada! Finally he realized it was the guy who had been sending him emails every day. So he said, “Ok, I’ll take your resumé.”

And once you got there, did it meet your expectations?

I had been a sous-chef in Montreal by the time I arrived at elBulli, so I was pretty hardcore. It’s the way I had been trained. So I loved the way the kitchen worked there, especially Oriol Castro. He was so dedicated. Read the rest of this entry »

Albert Raurich

Year: 1997

Like nearly all of the restaurant’s permanent staff, Albert Raurich began his tenure as a stagiaire. But he went further than most, becoming chef de cuisine in 2000, and staying on another seven years after that. In 2007, with Ferran’s blessing and support, he left to open Dos Palillos, a tapas bar in Barcelona highly acclaimed for its Asian tapas. He and his partner Tamae Imachi have just opened a second Dos Palillos in Berlin.

How did you come to work at elBulli in the first place?

I have a Harley Davidson. So does Christian Escribà [a famed Barcelona pastry chef] and we would go out riding together. I went to culinary school with Sergi Arola, and one day Sergi told me he was going to spend the year working at elBulli. He said he thought there was still a spot open. I knew that Christian was friends with Ferran, so I asked him to inquire on my behalf. He did, and Ferran told me to come on up.

So I went up, and Ferran showed me around. He said the most important thing is that you like us and the kind of cooking we do. I laughed, because I thought it was the reverse: that they like me. But I got the job.

What was it like?

When you start, all the jobs are really mechanical. But I had already worked as chef de cuisine in another restaurant, so they gave me a bit more responsibility. I helped out the girl who was in charge of making family meal. And that was an important job, because, as Ferran always says, how can a restaurant feed its clients well if it doesn’t feed its staff well? Read the rest of this entry »

Katie Button

(Francesc Guillamet)

Year: 2009

Even more than it does for most people, elBulli changed Katie Button’s life. After leaving a promising career in biomedical research, she took a job waiting tables at Café Atlántico in Washington, DC. where she met several visiting members of elBulli’s staff, including maître d’ Felix Meana. Felix convinced her to do a front-of-house stage at elBulli, and while there in the summer of 2008, she fell in love not only with him, but with the cuisine that the restaurant produced. Before that season was over, she convinced Albert Adria to let her come back the following year as a stagiaire in pastry. Tonight, she and Felix, who are now engaged, open their new restaurant, Cúrate, in Asheville, North Carolina.

What was your initial impression of Ferran?

I was so nervous! When you meet him for the first time, he seems so serious. You feel in awe of him. And then see him outside the restaurant, and he’s so friendly. But you know what? He still makes me nervous.

As a server, did you interact with him much?

The first thing they teach you when you start working is how to come into the kitchen. You approach the pass, and have to stand at a certain distance from Ferran or Eduard or whomever is expediting. You have to clearly express what you want, and then move down the line and get a tray ready with plates. Then you wait.  You look at the expediter. You repeat back what he’s saying. If you didn’t speak loudly or clearly enough—he would get upset. That was always Ferran’s thing. I would go up there and practically salute. Read the rest of this entry »

Simon Lennblad

Year: 2007

Simon Lennblad did a stage not only at elBulli, but at the French Laundry in Napa Valley as well. Before both,  he was already working at PM Restaurant in Våxjo, Sweden as chef de partie. These days, he’s chef de cuisine there, and also oversees the restaurant’s greenhouse and garden.

Where were you in the kitchen? Did you stay in a single station or move around?

In the beginning I worked everywhere, but after a while, they put me on fish station for service. And normally I did all the spherifications during the day.

What were the parts or tasks you liked the best? The least? Any part of mise that drove you crazy?

I really liked most of it. Taking out seeds of the cucumber at first drove me crazy but until I was driven to make myself the fastest at it. Then it got fun. Read the rest of this entry »