Since Ferran Adrià first arrived at elBulli in 1983, upward of a thousand apprentice chefs, or stagiaires, have passed through its kitchen. In these interviews, some of them recall their time at elBulli and reflect on how the experience shaped them. Check back frequently for new entries.
The man who goes by Jeremiah Bullfrog first learned of elBulli in 1999, before the restaurant had much of an international reputation. Still, he was intrigued by what he heard, and in 2001, left a position as executive chef at Light, a popular lounge in New York, to do a stage. While there, he ran into what he calls “some bumps in the road,” and only ended up staying three months. These days, he runs GastroPod in Miami, an Airstream trailer-turned-food truck that serves gourmet street food, and is a popular fixture at local music festivals and art exhibitions.
Any tasks you particularly disliked during your stage?
I was in the cubby, or Small Kitchen, for what seemed like an eternity. And every day we had to clean chicken feet. We even had a song for it—“Patitas” and this silly little dance.
And ones you liked?
I was really good at the sepia [cuttlefish]. They would set me up there in back with three bins, and I’d divide it into liver, ink sack, and meat. We would brunoise the meat to make this risotto without rice. Read the rest of this entry »
When he started his stage, Josean Martínez Alija was just 20 years old, but had already been cooking for half a decade. Within a couple of years of leaving elBulli, he was running his own kitchen at the restaurant of Frank Gehry’s spectacular Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, and winning prizes for best young chef. Today, the Restaurante Guggenheim, which is about to move into a new space within the museum, continues to earn praise for a cuisine that looks simplistic on the plate, but is technically innovative (and delicious).
While you were a stagiaire, were you assigned to a single station?
The first two weeks I was in the small kitchen, what we called the production kitchen back then. Then I moved through starters, meats, cold station. I worked in everything I could, because it all seemed so interesting to me, and I had so much curiosity…
Was there a task you particularly disliked?
I sure didn’t like cracking the coconuts. Although I have to admit I was fascinated by the cuttlefish ravioli with soy and coconut. Read the rest of this entry »
When Brazilian Vanessa Trefois did her first stage (she returned for two weeks in 2004) at elBulli, she worked in the main kitchen. For years after—through subsequent stages at Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Celler de Can Roca in Girona, and Ryugin in Tokyo, her emphasis was always on savory. But a stint at Pierre Hermes in Paris convinced her to change her ways. Now, in addition to consulting for Saõ Paulo’s new Restaurante Terrasse, she has her own chocolate shop, Amai.
What was your least favorite task at elBulli?
The rabbit heads. You had these whole heads, and you had to cut them open and scoop out the brains in one piece. It wasn’t very nice.
How did you get along with the other stagiaires?
I had really good friends, but it was also hard some times. You’re with them all the time, sixteen hours at work and then you all live together too in this cramped apartment that nobody gets around to cleaning. It’s very stressful. Read the rest of this entry »