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The Sorcerer's Apprentices

A Season at el Bulli

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It was, arguably, the most famous restaurant in the world and perhaps one of the most significant and influential ever: the legendary 'el Bulli' in Catalonia, which closed in 2011, attained a near-mythic reputation for culinary wizardry. But what actually went on behind the scenes? What was the daily reality of life in the world's greatest kitchen?

The Sorcerer's Apprenticestells first-hand the story of a young chef enrolled in the restaurant's legendary training course. It shows her struggle to adapt, how she and the other apprentices learned to push themselves and the limits of their abilities, how they adjusted to a style of cooking that was creative in the extreme and how they dealt with the pressures of performing at the highest level night after night.

In past years stagiares have clashed with the severe demeanour of Oriol Castro, the restaurant's chef de cuisine; others have gone on to work at the restaurant. One was sent home each year, unable to fit into the high-wire act that is the el Bulli kitchen.

Complicating things even more, the stagiares lived together in shared apartments, so the events and emotions of their personal lives bled more than usual into the professional. The Sorcerer's Apprenticestells these smaller, more human stories as well.

At its heart, The Sorcerer's Apprenticesis a quest: it tells the tale of a handful of aspiring young people who submitted themselves to a grueling challenge in order to be made better by it. It also offers an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look at the most famous restaurant in the world, through the lens of those who, ultimately, made it work.

César Lucas Abreu

Lisa Abend is journalist based in Madrid. For the past three years, she has been Time magazine’s correspondent in Spain, where she writes about everything from international terrorism, to climate change, to immigration, to costumed debt collectors (with, needless to say, a fair number of bullfighting stories thrown in for good measure.) As a freelancer, she has written on learning the Basque language for The Atlantic; on volunteer bit torrent translators for Wired; on the plight of Roma women for Ms., on prime minister Zapatero’s republican upbringing for The American Prospect; on the recovery of the Iberian lynx for National Wildlife; and on the situation in Western Sahara for The Economist.
     Her real love, though, is food writing. She contributes regularly to all the major American food magazines, and has written features on a Marrakech cooking school (Bon Appetit); on culinary travels through Extremadura (Gourmet); on a collective of grandmothers in Catalonia who preserve traditional cuisine (Saveur) and on learning to love pig face (Food and Wine). Her food writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and the Christian Science Monitor.  She hosts an upcoming episode on Andalusia in the third season of PBS’ Diary of a Foodie.
     In a previous life (that is, about 5 years ago) she was a professor of Spanish history at Oberlin College.

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (April 14, 2011)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780857201577

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