“Creativity means not copying” – lessons in creativity from El Bulli

by | May 18, 2016

elBulli was just about the best restaurant in the world, ever, reportedly so out-there that it operated at a loss and was closed half the year for some dedicated creative thinking. Its head chef, Ferran Adrià, called time on the revered Spanish establishment in 2011 because he felt he had done all he set out to do with it (or it was a financial drain, depending on what you read), but the genius that lies behind this über-eatery lives on in The elBulli Foundation – a kind of creativity incubation hub with an emphasis on food.

Adrià, who mapped out his creative approach at a 2014/15 exhibition called Auditing The Creative Process, has become something of an icon of innovation and can reportedly earn up to 80,000 Euros for a one-hour speech. Unfortunately, finding a nice, easy 10-step summary of the way he operates is nigh on impossible – ideas seem to whirl around him in a constant state of flux. Much can be gleaned from the ‘Synthesis of elBulli Cuisine’, however, a 23-step guide to the restaurant’s philosophy that was published in 2005.

Key components of the elBulli method include: understanding of traditional methods; embracing new technology; considering all of the senses; making the most of teamwork; breaking down barriers; collaboration. Underpinning this philosophy is something that French chef Jacques Maximin said back in 1987 which Adrià took to heart: “Creativity means not copying.”

According to the website set up for Adrià’s 2014/15 exhibition, “from that moment on, Adrià decided to distance himself from the masters to forge his own culinary language… it rethought established limits. Why can’t ice cream be hot? Who says you can’t mix sweet and savoury?”

In an interview with Belgium-based digital agency 3 Communications, meanwhile, Adrià explains how his ideas about creativity can be applied to small business: “The first step is to evaluate your business,” he says. “Pinpoint new trends in your sector and find out where you are going.” Once you have done this, he said you should focus on the areas that are open to creative ideas.

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