World’s best restaurant under fire

Posted by Isobel Drake on 20th May 2008

The world’s best restaurant for the last three years, El Bulli, has been accused of “unethical” cooking practices.

Santi Santamaria, a famous chef from Barcelona who has been awarded three Michelin stars, has accused fellow Spanish chef Ferran Adria of irresponsibly “filling diners plates with gelling agents and emulsifiers”.

Ferran Adria, head chef at El Bulli, has been a pioneer in ‘molecular gastronomy’ – a scientific approach to cooking. However, Santamaria is worried that, in order to create exciting and original dishes, Adria is using some ingredients which could have a negative impact on customer wellbeing. One of Adria’s signature additives, E461, was of particular concern to Santamaria. “Eating more than six grams of methylcellulose can be harmful to the health,” he claimed. “It is discouraged in children under six years and I fear that recipes made popular by Ferran Adria and his court of followers are putting people at risk.” The additive is used due to its ability to set when hot and melt when cold and its use for culinary purposes is not prohibited.

Santamaria, however, would prefer to see chefs keep things simple.”As the son of a farmer I have deep respect for traditional cuisine,” Mr Santamaria said. “Cooks should not be preoccupied with creating sculptures or painting pictures with their work. A table is not an art gallery.”

The comments by Santamaria were made at an award ceremony last week, where his book critiquing modern cooking practices received a major prize.

Adria has refuted the claims and plans to publish a full rebuke of Santamaria’s comments via the Alicia Foundation. “Of course my cooking is not dangerous,” he told The Daily Telegraph.