What does one have to do to get a reservation at El Bulli these days? Well, you can donate millions to the new Bulli Foundation or you can be insanely famous or you can just be in the right place at the right time and live your life as if you have no responsibilities whatsoever. Thats what I did!
My story goes back to 2007 actually, when I discovered the amazing Mazcleta chocolates at the World of Flavors Conference at the CIA Napa. The chocolate maker was a Spanish chef named Oriol Balaguer and the chocolate just blew my mind like no other piece before it had ever done! That chocolate stuck in my mind and a few months ago in late December 2010 a friend of mine was heading out to Madrid on vaccation and I begged her to bring me back a piece of Mazcleta. She ended up bringing me back a whole tube of it, which I shared with all my family and friends!
This is where the story leads to my eating at El Bulli! I was showing my mom in Albany, NY this wonderful Mazcleta and randomly and coincidently noticed that in this months Bon Appetite magazine they mentioned his new store in NYC on Park Ave! I was already planning to go to the city that week and figured this was my chance to pick up a a few more pieces!
I had been trying to get in touch with my friend Greg Grossman, an up and coming culinary star in NYC who is famous because he has done so much and is only 15! I needed his help on an article I was writing about “modern cuisine” (you are not allowed to call it molecular gastronomy anymore since that is not really what it is and it pisses off the chefs when you say that!) and had been texting him for a few days trying to meet up with him while in the city! Greg agreed to meet me at Oriol’s new shop and on Monday January 24th. When he arrived he told me that he had been planning to attend MADRID FUSION this week but his friends had cancelled on him and since he is 15, travelling solo can be difficult what with world wide security not letting minors travel solo!
Me, being a consultant and living each day like its my last one-figured WHAT THE HELL, why not go to Madrid Fusion and help out a 15 year old make it through customs and not be seen as a runaway by the world police! Greg wanted me to leave THAT NIGHT, but the adult in me realized I could not just abandon my client meeting Tuesday morning so we compromised on Tuesday night, even though it meant we would miss Ferran Adrias yearly speech.
We left on Tuesday night and got in early Wed (January 26th) to watch the last two days of the most influencial chefs in the world do their thing and make food and pastries and chocolate. There was also a trade show portion with sponsors like Unliever, Philly Cream Cheese and Oscar Meyer hotdogs… yes, our biggest processed food manufacturers are there to sponsor our greatest and most creative chefs. Patrons of the arts!
While there-I was lucky enough to meet the El Famoso writer Gerry Dawes who has been writing about Spain forever and knows practially every single restaurant owner in the entire country!
Me, being the gusty consultant that I am-politely asked Gerry if he knew anyone at El Bulli and perhaps he could see if there were any open tables! I figured .. HEY it never hurts to ask!
Gerry made a few calls and the next thing we knew, we were on a train to Barcelona -where we would rent a car and drive to Rosas and eat what would be (although I didn’t know it at the time) the best and worst meal of my entire life!
And so I will continue this story next week where I will tell you all about our madrid tapas crawl the night before, my unfortunate encounter with food poisoning and the dinner I hardly got to enjoy.
Its interesting how the random occurances in life lead you down a path that takes you to dinner at the most famous restaurant in the world.