Chef Albert Adrià began his career at the age of 15 working at elBulli with his brother and world-renowned chef, Ferran Adrià. But given his crustacean allergy, and after years of training in pâtisseries and restaurants, he was naturally drawn to sweets and started working with pastries. Now, just past 40 years old, he is shy, very disciplined, obsessed with minute details and creating perfect work. You can find Albert on most evenings in his Barcelona restaurants, which include Tickets Bar, Pakta and 41º Experience. He strives to provide unique experiences for his guests while revolutionizing each creation.
Congratulations on your new adventures with Tickets Bar, Pakta and 41º Experience. How did the idea of Tickets Bar come about? What is the origin?
The origin comes from Inòpia, my former tapas bar, which no longer exists. We wanted to see if there existed something between traditional cuisine and vanguard experiences, and the Iglesias brothers [Borjam, Pedro and Juan Carlos, who run the famed seafood restaurant Rías de Galicia in Barcelona] are the perfect business partners in Barcelona for these types of restaurants.
What’s your culinary background? Prior to Tickets, where did you work?
I was 15 years old when I started working at elBulli in 1985, and after a long training period, which included several pâtisseries and restaurants, I dedicated my time to elBulli‘s desserts. From 1997, I developed new techniques and sweet concepts for the menus such as eggplant sorbet confit with yogurt and balsamic caramel, and cake made with bacon, pine nuts and Pedro Ximénez croquant.
Having the surname Adrià, is it an advantage or a disadvantage?
This is a difficult one and can be cut both ways, but I prefer to be a real Adrià, and I assume that my surname makes clients expect more than the usual. I am proud of my brother and to be part of the new Catalan gastronomy.
What about exporting your restaurants? Will you open abroad?
So far I am opening five restaurants just in Barcelona aside from Tickets Bar, Pakta and 41º Experience. Next July, we will open a fourth one called Vermuteria, and in October, a Mexican restaurant called Yaguarkan. Next January, the new 41º will open with its new restaurant for 20 people. I have some offers to open abroad, but I will not make any decisions until spring 2014 as I am now fully concentrated on my new restaurants in Barcelona.
Why are you introducing these new concepts such as tapas, Japanese and raw food?
I have a lot of interest in these gastronomies and there was a niche in the Barcelona market for these kinds of proposals, so we opened Tickets Bar, a casual tapas bar inspired by elBulli; Pakta, a Japanese and Peruvian-influenced restaurant; 41º Experience, which is a cocktail and snack bar; and Yaguarkan, a Mexican restaurant with cocktails and finger food.
What was it like working in the best restaurant in the world?
Somehow I feel like I have contributed to the best restaurant in the world after 23 years of working in elBulli. Contributing to and creating it, it was like my home and we were not really aware that we had a shot at achieving what we achieved. I owe elBulli everything I know professionally speaking, and also to elBulli manager Juli Soler and, of course, to my brother Ferran Adrià.
Lastly, on a night off, what are some of your favorite restaurants to eat at in Barcelona? What kind of cuisine do you like to eat when you’re not working?
I usually go to niche restaurants that specialize in cuisines like Japanese such as Koy Shunka or Yashima, arrocerias (restaurants specializing in rice dishes), tapas, and Catalan cuisine. I cannot name my favorite restaurants because I wouldn’t want to forget any of them, but Dos Palillos and Chez CoCo are at the top of my list. Nowadays in Barcelona you can eat extremely well.
Photos Courtesy of Tickets, Pakta and AlberAdria