Ferran Adrià began his culinary career in 1980 during his stint as a dishwasher at the Hotel Playafels, in the town of Castelldefels. The chef de cuisine at this hotel taught him traditional Spanish cuisine. At 19 he was drafted into military service where he worked as a cook. In 1984, at the age of 22, Adrià joined the kitchen staff of El Bulli as a line cook. Eighteen months later he became the head chef.
Along with British chef Heston Blumenthal, Adrià is often associated with "molecular gastronomy," although the Catalan chef does not consider his cuisine to be of this category. Instead, he has referred to his cooking as deconstructivist. Adrià's stated goal is to "provide unexpected contrasts of flavour, temperature and texture. Nothing is what it seems. The idea is to provoke, surprise and delight the diner." This is also combined with a large dose of irony and a sense of humour, making his dishes highly épatants (impressive). As he likes to say, "the ideal customer doesn't come to El Bulli to eat but to have an experience."
El Bulli is only open for about six months of the year (in 2010,the season is due to run from June 15 to December 20). Adrià spends the remaining six months of the year perfecting recipes in his workshop "El Taller" in Barcelona. He is famous for his thirty course gourmet menu.
He is also well known for creating "culinary foam". In his quest to enhance flavour Adrià discards the use of cream and egg; foam is made exclusively of the main ingredient and "air" (combined in a siphon bottle equipped with N2O cartridges). Adrià's foam creations include foamed espresso (Èspesso), foamed mushroom, and foamed beetroot, as well as foamed meats.
El Bulli has 3 Michelin stars and is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the world. In 2005 it ranked second in the Restaurant Top 50. It was awarded the first place in 2006, displacing The Fat Duck in England. El Bulli has retained this title in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Adrià is the author of several cookbooks including A Day at El Bulli, El Bulli 2003-2004 and Cocinar en Casa (Cooking at Home). With his young assistant Daniel Picard, Adrià has made almonds into cheese and asparagus into bread with the help of natural ingredients.
Adrià has been a featured chef on Great Chefs television.