A recipe for innovation from Ferran Adria

Arguably the world’s greatest chef was on campus last week to discuss his life’s work and his approach to innovation.

Ferran Adria (right) at LBS

Speaking at London Business School, Ferran Adrià shared the thinking that has gone into the transformation of his lauded El Bulli restaurant and into the El Bulli Foundation

The former footballer, and business student turned chef, described how they turned to business students to establish the purpose of the business once it stopped serving as a restaurant in 2011.

30 teams chosen from 800 applicants globally established the Foundation’s goals, which are two-fold: Firstly to preserve the restaurant’s legacy through ceaselessly communicating its achievements and secondly to share knowledge through a digital archive focused on innovation and food knowledge.

“Over the past seven years I've been studying many theories, models and so forth about education, innovation and knowledge,” said Adrià. “The archive has put theories into simple language and come up with an eclectic methodology interlinked with case studies.”

Adrià puts an emphasis on history that he argues is crucial to understanding and therefore to innovation.

“We understand history to be essential,” he said. “For example, do you want to understand the iPhone of today or the iPhone over the past 12 years?

“If we don't know history we will always be missing something. If I know the history I understand it comprehensively and I can do anything with it. That gives me freedom.”

Adrià’s latest book with Lavazza and Phaidon is another step on this chronicle of innovation and food. He said Coffee Sapiens: “is an attempt to integrate all the knowledge on coffee so that gastronomic professionals can have access to it. If you understand coffee you can do anything you want with coffee.”

Adrià was speaking as part of the TELL Series of talks on Entrepreneurial Leadership at LBS.