If You Don't Eat Well, It's Because You Haven't Tried

Sadly, I was never able to eat at El Bulli before it closed. Ferran Adrià is recognized as the best chef in the world and was the creative force behind El Bulli restaurant for 24 years. His legendary talent, creativity and gastronomic innovations have inspired chefs and food lovers around the world, and they are what made El Bulli what it was.

Ferran has hosted, and taught, some of the best chefs in the world. But what does he eat? Bread and garlic soup, roasted chicken, potato salad and caramelized pears. They are called "family meals" at El Bulli, and only if you worked there were you ever able to eat these simple, comforting meals.

The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià is the only book on home cooking from the legendary chef. He presents for the first time a collection of simple, tasty and affordable recipes for the dishes eaten every day by the staff at El Bulli. It was the most important moment of the day, when the staff sat down to eat together before service began. The Family Meal shows you the step-by-step secrets of how to plan, prepare and cook everyday meals in the easiest way possible with the world's best chef as your guide.

They called it the family meal because the 75 members of the staff were a family. Why is this so important at El Bulli? It's very simple. If we eat well, we cook well.

The Family Meal is a very useful tool in the home kitchen. There are many recipe books, but few are based on meals. This book provides meals that have been thought out in their entirety. There are 31 balanced menus containing three courses.

There is also a list of dishes, so you can mix and match to your own taste and families.

You don't need experience to follow the recipes, because each recipe is explained in minute detail, step-by-step. In fact, what is presented is more a way of thinking about food than a way of cooking. Ferran Adrià truly believes that if you don't eat well, it's because you haven't tried. It is a myth that good food has to be expensive, and all the recipes in the book are designed to feed people very well on a low budget.

The ingredients are, for the most part, everyday ones that can be found anywhere in the world. To make sure of this, one of the chefs at El Bulli spent 31 days cooking all the meals for two people, buying all the necessary ingredients at the market or supermarket. If he couldn't get hold of them easily, that particular menu item was rejected. And whenever possible, they suggested substitute ingredients.

The book has a great section on the essentials you should have in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. It also provides an equipment list that any good home cook would have and a great how-to section, along with easy instructions and guides for cooking eggs, meat and french fries, and how to use fresh and dried herbs. Ferran Adrià was über-organized at El Bulli, and proper mise-en-place was key to successful cooking. He provides ingredient lists, preparation lists, cooking lists and serving lists. Nothing is left to chance.

Each meal has a starter, a main and a dessert. Recipe ingredients are listed for two, six, 20 or 75, and they're carefully calculated (not mathematically, mind you, but via testing at each level) for each group. Each recipe has about 15 photos showing every step. That's almost 1,400 total, with plenty more, including photos of utensils and types of fish. One almost doesn't need to read English.

This cookbook would make an excellent go-to for those weekday family meals. Everything is planned for you -- you just pull out the ingredients from your stocked pantry and serve up a delicious, homey, nutritious three-course meal created by the best chef in the world.

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Patrise Shuttlesworth