The crowd that filtered in to the Times Center which, Lord Almighty is like some sort of spacious temple, was giddy with anticipation to see Ferran Adria, chef of El Bulli, TV personality and chef Anthony Bourdain and interlocutor Eric Asimov. They queued for an hour or more. One woman did the entire Saturday crossword puzzle, in pen, in an hour.
Once inside the auditorium, four chairs sat on the stage. "Oh my god," said the woman next to me, "who is the fourth chair for?" Red Red Wine played over the speaker. "Oh my god," said the woman next to me, "this is my ring tone." She was here to see Eric Asimov, the wine guy from the Times. "I hear he is the grandson of Isaac Asimov. Someone who knew him personally told me." He's not. He's his nephew. Drew Neirporent sat in the second row. Behind me some cute asian girl kept on looking at me like she thought I had dirty hair, which is accurate.
Soon enough Mr. Asimov sauntered on stage with a strange and compelling strut. He was followed by a very tall Bourdain and a very bull-like Adria. The fourth chair was for the translator, a very very cute Spaniard. Though Adria speaks English, he prefers Spanish. Vale! Adria was clearly the star. Bourdain was his back up. Eric Asimov said a total of about three things, none of them relevant and all of them ignored. He would ask a question and even before it was translated to Adria, the chef would be answering. His reply rarely had anything to do with Asimov's query but were consistently enlightening. He was simply reading his manifesto, interrupted occasionally by a question and pausing momentarily to allow Bouraain to interject. What really stuck with me is Ferria's insistence that he was creating a new language, a language spoken by avant garde cuisiniers around the world. With this new language he was engaging his diners in conversation. "Cuisine is a dialogue" he said on numerous occasions.
Bourdain manned up to approaching El Bulli with a hostile attitude. But after he ate there---he was the first person to actually eat with Adria---he said. it was like "Eric Clapton seeing Jimi Hendrix play." That makes Bourdain Clapton to Adria's Hendrix which is, well, a tad overly self-regarding but he said it with a smile. He then called his meal, "the most important meal on the planet." Asimov did ask one good question for which Adria's non-answer is germane. "There's not going to be an El Bulli in Las Vegas?" he asked. Adria replied, "El Bulli has become a monster. It's impossible to tame." Which is, what, a yes or just another moment of disregard?
Other tidbits: The are 70 people who work at El Bulli for 50 diners. Adria supervises their staff meal every day. The meal he's most excited for in New York? Katz's Delicatessen.