Will Spanish avant-garde cuisine stand the test of time?

What to eat. What not to eat.
March 26 2008 8:07 AM

Fish Foam and Spherified Mango Juice

Will Spanish avant-garde cuisine stand the test of time?

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The same, I would hold, is true of modern Spanish cuisine. What lies at its heart is not a particular dish—not even the emblematic foam. Rather, it's a spirit—a vigorous, often intellectual search for new flavors that takes place not just in gardens and pantries but in landscapes and art exhibitions, and, yes, in the laboratory. And that isn't going away. As Arenós told me in an interview, Spain's top chefs have plenty of staying power. "Ferran [Adrià] is the most influential chef in the world, and he was born only in 1962. ... All the other guys, Andoni [Aduriz], Quique [Dacosta], they're in their 30s. We can't talk about decadence when they're all so young."

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They're not just young; they're motivated. Andoni Luis Aduriz, the chef of two-starred Mugaritz, is often hailed as Adrià's more serene but equally talented dauphin. For the past two years, he has been working on using ultrasound to achieve more precise cooking times and, in collaboration with Aponiente chef Ángel León, is developing a cooking fuel made from olive pits. "There are people who say, 'this is over, let's put it behind us,' but that's just marketing. I can tell you from my own experience that there is more research going on, more energy, than ever before."

That's the thing. The pressure to innovate (and among Spanish chefs, that pressure is largely self-imposed) means that Spanish techno-emotional cooking, if that's what we're calling it now, is going to keep changing, producing new and ever-wackier techniques and ingredients. Some of them, like Dacosta's platinum-coated oyster, will perhaps, mercifully, not withstand the test of time. But others, like that now-ubiquitous foam, will seep into the culinary vernacular, forever augmenting the range of possibilities chefs have at their disposal.

Lisa Abend is a freelance writer based in Madrid, Spain.