Grace M.W. Wong
What is the philosophy behind the El Bulli Foundation? 'One of the most important things at El Bulli is our spirit, which we will carry on in the foundation. It's our way of understanding life and sharing what we have learned, to take risks in order to move forward. It's about creativity and social responsibility, a way for chefs to [partake in] further studies. We are using the existing restaurant space and adding buildings. The new structures will include the El Bulli Museum and a brainstorming room. We want a multi- functional, technically advanced room for brainstorming and spreading news to the world. There will be 30 to 40 people stationed there, spending four to five hours a day on creating and testing food-science theories. It's our time to give back to society. In 2014, anyone who wants to learn about the innovations we are creat- ing will have access to the database. We're establishing a dialogue with people on the internet. When we spot a good, creative person, we will establish a private communication channel to communicate with him, to start the training. The foundation is all about the freedom to create and the magical part is we don't know what it will become.'
What role does creativity play in achieving a unique culinary personality?'One way of defining creativity is to learn. In 1994, at El Bulli, we started to develop our own culinary language, one with a strong Mediterranean identity, and it continues to evolve. Over the past 30 years, I have [worked with] some of the best chefs. It's easy for me to spot whether a chef is creative, or simply better as a talented professional cook. Although [the latter] might be a very good cook, he or she wouldn't know what to do at El Bulli. That's why we used to close for six months of the year - to create, so every year it was like opening a new restaurant. With creativity, you have an idea and you implement it. For every 10 ideas, you might get one good one. At El Bulli, we created 120 to 130 dishes per year.'
What is your definition of success? 'Success is to get up every morning and feel happy. It doesn't matter whether you're a millionaire or on top of your career. Success is a personal sentiment. Success is when you can enjoy what you do at work and in life.'
What do you think of Hong Kong's gourmets? 'I have not been to Hong Kong for almost 10 years. I am delighted to be here because this is my way to say thank you to those Hong Kong foodies who have patronised El Bulli throughout the years, and especially this year at events to raise funds for the foundation. Hong Kong people are very open-minded about food. They eat with their souls, combining modernity and passion towards eating experimental food. These qualities are very important in developing avant-garde cuisine and I would like to establish a relationship with the foodies here.'
Are you interested in Chinese cuisine? 'I have just come back from Beijing and Shanghai. I discovered that ham is common in our food cultures, even though taste and application is different. It is important to understand Chinese culture. I want to live for at least two to three months in China to understand the food and the country. I'll try to come back and spend as much time as possible studying the cuisine. Chinese cuisine is very diverse. It's not the kind of cuisine you can pick up in a short time.'
Will Chinese cuisine change? 'I predict that eventually dairy products will be incorporated into Chinese dishes, maybe yogurt and cheese. You will see Spanish olive oil in Chinese food because any cuisine will adapt extraordinary ingredients into its cuisine. Why put everything in the middle of the table? There is no temperature contrasts in Chinese dishes. Only when you apply temperature contrasts to Chinese dishes can you begin to change Chinese cuisine. It is possible. For instance, in China, cold soup is [considered] shocking but they eat ice cream, which is essentially frozen soup. This is an interesting concept which can instigate a revolution in Chinese traditional cuisine. I'm interested in recreating Peking duck skin in a new dish. I like the fact the duck skin is wrapped with vegetables in a steamed crepe. The magic part is the skin, it is wonderful. I often wonder how many dishes are invented from this particular structure of duck skin in Chinese cuisine.'