he world’s first “gastronomic university” is to open in Spain, complete with a research laboratory to explore the mysterious chemistry of taste.
Student chefs will be encouraged to master the craft of “molecular gastronomy” under the tuition of Spain’s most celebrated restaurateur Ferran Adria, who owns El Bulli, and encouraged to use scientific innovation to design the recipes of the future. Britain’s own Heston Blumenthal, the self-taught chef at the Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, has also been tipped for a guest lectureship.Construction began last month on the Basque Culinary Centre in San Sebastian and it will be ready to accept its first intake of students in September 2011 in a building designed to resemble a pile of stacked plates. The university will be the first of its kind to offer a four-year undergraduate degree course in culinary arts taught in both English and Spanish and one year masters degrees as well as shorter courses for cooking enthusiasts.
Authorities in Spain’s northern Basque country hope the university will establish the region as the new “mecca of the world haute cuisine”, said Joxe Mari Aizega, the project director. The private university is located in the seaside resort of San Sebastian, which already holds a reputation for some of the best gastronomical expertise in Spain. The town is home to nine restaurants who together boast a total of 16 Michelin stars. Many of the local chefs have pledged their support to the new university and will participate in the tuition on degree courses. But it is perhaps the promise of guest lecturers such as the top chef Ferran Adria that will have aspiring chefs applying in droves.
Mr Adria who owns the famed El Bulli restaurant on Spain’s Costa Brava is considered the father of molecular gastronomy and has treated those few diners lucky enough to secure a reservation at one of his tables to such rare delights as Parmesan snow and pine cone mouse. Despite hostility from Spain’s more traditional chefs and accusations that he is “poisoning” diners with his persistent use of emulsifiers and foams, his restaurant has been voted the best in the world for the fourth consecutive year.
Blumenthal, who famously followed in his footsteps, has won three Michelin stars and is consistently voted the best restaurant in Britain, even kicking El Bulli off the top spot in 2005.
Hailed as a culinary alchemist for his innovative style of cooking, it is Blumenthal who came up with such deliciously whimsical inventions as egg and bacon ice-cream and chocolate wine.
Spain’s minister of Science and Innovation said the time had come for gastronomy to be treated with the same seriousness as other academic subjects and given its own university degree.
”Not only is gastronomy an art, culture and an industry,” said Cristina Garmendia at the ceremony to lay the foundation stone of the new university. “It is also a technology and a science.”