Blue Hill

Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentices

How famous and important a restaurant is El Bulli?  When preparing for this assignment I typed “el b” into a google search field and El Bulli was the first thing that came up.  That’s impressive.  If you have dining there on your bucket list but you don’t yet have a reservation then you need to replace it with something else because in just over two months the most famous restaurant in the world is closing it’s doors.

From the El Bulli web site:

First of all we would like to thank everybody who has shown an interest in visiting us to enjoy the El Bulli experience during these fifty years as a restaurant. Also to all the professionals who have been part of the team and helped make it happen.

On July 30th 2011 El Bulli will have completed its journey as a restaurant. We will transform into a creativity center, opening in 2014. Its main objective is to be a think-tank for creative cuisine and gastronomy and will managed by a private foundation.

The Sorcerer's Apprentices by Lisa AbendIn 2009 Lisa Abend, Time magazine’s Spain correspondent for the past several years, spent an entire season in the kitchen of the little restaurant in Roses, Spain.  She was the proverbial fly on the wall as a staff of 40 sum odd cooks developed the 31 course extravaganza  that has made Ferran Adrià the most famous and revered chef on the planet.  The result was the newly released The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià’s elBulli.

She watched as a team of 32 stagiaires (apprentice chefs who work for no pay) invest six months of their lives just for the invaluable line on their resume, “worked for Ferran Adrià at El Bulli.”  It is the culinary equivalent of walking on the moon.

What Abend captures extremely well are the emotions of the stagiaires as they discover that their tenure in Roses is nothing like they imagined.  The El Bulli kitchen is unlike any they will work in the rest of their careers.  At some point or another every single one of them will be vastly disappointed in the experience and rewarded by it.

Some will get angry.  Some will be frustrated.  Some will get laid.  All of them, at one time or another will be bored.  The most exciting dining experience known to man is quite possibly the most boring kitchen a chef could work in.  That is but one of the ironies revealed in Abend’s book.

The author introduces the reader to many of the stagiaires who are gleaned each year from thousands of applicants.  Another testament to the legend of Adrià, that each year 3000 chefs from around the world volunteer to work for him for free for six months.  Their only compensation is sharing a small room with their co-workers and one meal a day.

If you are looking for the scandalous tales made famous in chef memoirs like Marco Pierre White’s The Devil in the Kitchen or Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential you’ll be disappointed.  But that does not mean the book is devoid of scandalous revelations.

For all of Adrià’s unquestionable creativity and skill and vision and genius and artistry he is apparently not a very good businessman.  With 32 chefs working for free, a large number of servers who also work with out pay and an average cost of $350 a head for dinner at a restaurant with a reservations wait list years long, El Bulli is not exactly a profitable endeavor.

If you are a foodie or a chef you will find this book engaging and eye opening.  It is well written by an author who smiths words that are eloquently lucid.  It is a must read.  And I’m not the only one who thinks so either:

“Abend is successful in conveying the intense pressure felt by the young stagiaires, while providing insight into Ferran Adria’s commanding but beneficent rule over his well-oiled machine of a kitchen.” Leah Douglas,

It’s a fascinating glimpse into a culinary rite of passage, and the incomparable genius behind it.”  Dan Barber, chef/owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

“This is a worthy addition to the literature of the professional kitchen and a pleasure to read.” Michael Ruhlman, author of Ratio and The Making of a Chef.

Abend and I have Tweeted back and forth since I received my review copy and I have told her that she is the envy of every food writer in the world.  She assured me that is not the first time she has heard that and that the experience was a once in a life time event.

Color me green.

The French Culinary Institute’s New York Culinary Experience

The New York Culinary Experience offers food-lovers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work alongside, learn from, and eat with the most renowned chefs in the city. Students of the culinary arts are welcome, but no prior experience is necessary for this event—the only requirement is a desire to learn from and interact with the best in the business.For two days, you’ll participate in hands-on master classes with acclaimed chefs, restaurateurs, and industry insiders. You’ll learn techniques and creative approaches to preparing dishes, then create and eat the dishes you have learned. In addition, you will enjoy in-depth, intimate tasting workshops featuring limited-edition and rare wines, as well as specialty, hard-to-find foods.Breakfast, lunch, and a Champagne toast at the conclusion of each day will be provided to all attendees.


dan barber Donatella Arpaia
Anthos, David Burke & Donatella and Mia Dona

An influential force in the NYC dining scene, Donatella Arpaia is the co-owner of Davidburke & Donatella with Chef David Burke. She is also the co-owner with Chef Michael Psilakis of Mia Dona and Anthos Restaurant which was awarded a coveted Michelin® star and which Esquire magazine named best new restaurant. Named “40 under 40? by Crain’s she will star in a new reality show for Bravo this fall.
dan barber Dan Barber
Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Dan Barber is Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Blue Hill, and a James Beard Award recipient, among other honors. Focusing on pleasure, taste, and regional bounty, Barber is an activist in bringing consciousness to everyday food choices. He is featured frequently in Gourmet, Food & Wine, New York magazine, and other publications.
dan barber Joe Bastianich
Award-winning restaurateur and winemaker

Joe Bastianich is a prominent restaurateur and winemaker who co-owns numerous restaurants across the country with Chef Mario Batali, including the legendary Babbo Ristorante, as well as several more with his mother, Chef Lidia Bastianich. The author of Vino Italiano and a frequent contributor on the TODAY Show, Bastianich co-owns wineries in Italy and Argentina, and has received a James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional.
ron ben-israel Ron Ben-Israel
Ron Ben-Israel Cakes

Ron Ben-Israel’s elegant cakes are a favorite with celebrities and socialites. This award-winning “King of Cakes” makes regular appearances on The Martha Stewart Show, Food Network, and in national magazines. Ben-Israel’s masterpiece replica of The Plaza Hotel served 1,500 guests. Since 1999, he has been imparting his techniques at The French Culinary Institute.
Karen Bornarth & Roger Gural
of The French Culinary Institute (The FCI)Karen Bornarth is an instructor and instructional coordinator at The FCI. She has studied, practiced, and taught the craft of bread baking for 10 years. Roger Gural, an FCI alumni and instructor, has baked professionally for almost ten years, at renowned bakeries such as Bouchon Bakery, Bouley Bakery, and Amy’s Bread.
David Bouley
Bouley Bakery and DanubeTrained at Sorbonne and by some of Europe’s most acclaimed chefs including Roger Verge and Fredy Giradet, David Bouley is the Chef-Owner of Bouley, Bouley Bakery and Danube. He has twice received a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef; his restaurants, Bouley and Danube, have both received Best Restaurant awards by the James Beard Foundation. Bouley is also the owner of Bouley Cooking Demonstrations and Bouley Test Kitchens.
Terrance Brennan
Picholine and ArtisanalTerrance Brennan is Chef-Proprietor of Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar, and Picholine Restaurant, which was awarded two stars by the esteemed Michelin® Guide in 2008. A five-time James Beard Award nominee, Brennan is a familiar face on national television appearing on The Today Show, The Martha Stewart Show, and more.
cesare casella Cesare Casella
Dean of The Italian Culinary AcademyCesare Casella is the Dean of The Italian Culinary Academy (sister school of The French Culinary Institute). A frequent traveler between NYC and Italy, Casella has authored three books and designed a comprehensive training program on Italian cuisine for The Italian Culinary Academy. He appears frequently on national television including Food Network and Molto Mario.
karen demasco Karen DeMasco
Craft and CraftbarPastry Chef at Craft and Craftbar since 2001, Karen DeMasco’s refined yet simple creations reflect years of classical training. Recipient of the James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef Award, DeMasco has appeared in publications including New York magazine, The New York Times, Chocolatier, and Pastry Art and Design.
wylie dufresne Wylie Dufresne
wd~50Wylie Dufresne is the Owner and Chef of wd~50. The James Beard Foundation has nominated Dufresne as Rising Star Chef and Best Chef: NYC, and nominated wd~50 as Best New Restaurant. wd~50 has also been recognized by Restaurant Magazine (UK), New York magazine, the Michelin® Guide’s inaugural American edition, and The New York Times.
Peter Endriss
Per Se and Bouchon BakeryPeter Endriss is the Head Baker of Per Se Restaurant and Bouchon Bakery New York, where he manages a 24-hour baking operation producing breads for both the restaurant and bakery. Endriss gained his experience in retail pastry production at Payard Patisserie and in large-scale bread production and management at Amy’s Bread.
Johnny Iuzzini
Jean GeorgesExecutive Pastry Chef of Jean Georges, Nougatine, and Perry Street, Johnny Iuzzini is a recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year and winner of New York magazines Best New Pastry Chef Award. Iuzzini has appeared on the Food Network, The Martha Stewart Show, The Today Show, and more.
Daniel Johnnes
Wine Director for Daniel Boulud’s Dinex GroupConsidered one of the top sommeliers in the country, Daniel Johnnes is the Wine Director for Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group, including Restaurant Daniel, DB Bistro, and Café Boulud. He was recently awarded the James Beard Foundation Wine and Spirit Professional of the Year, among many other honors.
Elizabeth Karmel
Hill CountryElizabeth Karmel is a nationally known grilling expert, creator of, and the Grill Friends™ and Kitchen Friends™ outdoor cooking and kitchen tools.  She is the Executive Chef of Hill Country, a Texas barbeque restaurant in New York City and the author of several cookbooks.
Jim Lahey
Sullivan Street BakeryJim Lahey is the Owner and Executive Baker of Sullivan Street Bakery. Lahey incorporates his passion for art and study of Italian techniques into his craft. Committed to redefining and elevating the standard for artisan bread, Lahey was the subject of a piece in The New York Times that sparked a worldwide home-baking revolution.
Anita Lo
Annisa and Bar QAnita Lo is Chef-Owner of Annisa and Bar Q, and Chef Consultant at Rickshaw Dumpling Bar.  Food & Wine Magazine voted Lo one of the Best New Chefs and Crain’s New York Business lists her as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in NYC Business. In 2004 she defeated Mario Batali in Iron Chef America.
Jean-Luc Le Dû
Le Dû’s WinesJean-Luc Le Dû is the Owner of Le Dû’s Wines, and recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Wine Service.  Le Dû served as the Head Sommelier at Restaurant Daniel for 10 years, establishing a 2,000-longbottle wine list that was awarded Wine Spectator magazine’s Grand Award.
daisy marinez Daisy Martinez
Daisy Cooks!Daisy Martinez is the host of the popular PBS series, Daisy Cooks! and a regular contributor to Every Day with Rachael Ray, Siempre Mujer, and Reader’s Digest’s Selecciones (May 2008) magazines. Martinez is currently working on her second book and a new show.
mac mccalman Max McCalman, Mâitre Fromager
Picholine and ArtisanalMax McCalman is the Mâitre Fromager at Picholine and Artisanal, known for their critically acclaimed cheese programs. Renowned as one of the cheese world’s living legends, McCalman serves as a consultant, lecturer, and teacher. His second book won the 2006 James Beard Award and he is frequently featured on television.
Danny Meyer
Union Square Hospitality Group Danny Meyer is the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group. His restaurants including Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern, and their chefs have earned an unprecedented seventeen James Beard Awards. He has received numerous awards including the James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Award and is the coauthor of The Union Square Cafe Cookbook and Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe.
Drew Nieporent
Myriad Restaurant GroupFounder of the Myriad Restaurant Group, Drew Nieporent is one of America’s most respected restaurateurs. Among the international restaurants Myriad operates are the multiple-award winning Nobu and Tribeca Grill. Nieporent has been inducted into “Who’s Who in Food & Beverage in America” and awarded the Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation.
Masaharu Morimoto
MorimotoMasaharu Morimoto is renowned worldwide as star of Iron Chef and Iron Chef America. He is Chef-Owner of restaurants around the world, including Morimoto in NYC. The restaurant is a James Beard Award nominee and has appeared on “best of” lists from publications such as Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and New York magazine.
Nils Norén and Dave Arnold
of The French Culinary Institute (The FCI)Nils Norén is the VP of Culinary Arts at The FCI and The Italian Culinary Academy. Previously he served as Executive Chef for Aquavit, where he combined his classic sensibilities and immense creativity. Dave Arnold is the Director of Culinary Technology at The FCI where he explores and teaches about the future of cooking. He and his work are frequently featured in national publications such as Food & Wine.
jim peterson James Peterson
Award-Winning Cookbook AuthorJames Peterson is an award-winning cookbook author and teacher of the culinary arts.  Has been nominated and awarded several times by the James Beard Foundation and International Association of Culinary Professionals for his books. His most recent books include What’s a Cook to Do?, a collection of kitchen tips and a full-color general cookbook.
François Payard
Payard Patisserie & BistroFrançois Payard is a third-generation Pastry Chef who honed his skills in France before moving to New York City where he opened Payard Patisserie & Bistro in NYC, now also open in Brazil, Japan, and Las Vegas. A recipient of the James Beard Foundation Pastry Chef of the Year Award, Payard is also an author of several popular cookbooks.
michael psilakis Michael Psilakis
Anthos, Kefi, and Mia DonaMichael Psilakis is the Chef and Co-Owner of Anthos, Kefi, and Mia Dona, restaurants known for their inspired reinterpretation of traditional Greek menus. Each restaurant has been recognized in national publications such as Food & Wine and The New York Times, and Anthos was awarded a coveted Michelin® Star, one of only two Greek restaurants in the world to be honored.
eric ripert Eric Ripert
Le BernardinEric Ripert is Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Le Bernardin, a three-star Michelin® restaurant. Among numerous accolades, Ripert and Le Bernardin have been awarded Outstanding Restaurant and Outstanding Chef in the U.S. by the James Beard Foundation and voted Best Food in New York City for the last seven years in The Zagat® Guide.
marcus samuelsson Marcus Samuelsson
Aquavit and Merkato 55Marcus Samuelsson is Co-Founder and Chief Creative Director of New York City’s Aquavit and Merkato 55. Samuelsson received the James Beard Foundation Awards for Rising Star Chef and Best Chef: New York City and placed on Crain’s New York Business annual 40 under 40. Author of several cookbooks, Samuelsson also hosts The Discovery Home program Inner Chef with Marcus Samuelsson.
andre soltner André Soltner
Former Chef/Owner of Lutèce André Soltner shares his artistry with students of The French Culinary Institute as Dean of Classic Studies. Recognized as America’s “first superstar chef,” Soltner is best known as the former Chef-Owner of the four-star Lutèce, considered the paragon of classic French cuisine. He has received dozens of distinctions including the Officier du Mérite National and the Légion d’Honneur from the French government.
jacque torres Jacques Torres
Jacques Torres ChocolateKnown as “Mr. Chocolate,” Jacques Torres spent eleven years as Executive Pastry Chef at Le Cirque 2000 before creating his world-renowned chocolate company, Jacques Torres Chocolate. The Dean of Pastry Arts at The French Culinary Institute, Torres has received several distinctions including the James Beard Foundation Best Pastry Chef of the Year.
Tom Valenti
OuestTom Valenti is the Chef and Co-Owner of Ouest. Recognized as “The Flavor King of New York” in New York Eats, and one of 10 Best New Chefs by Food & Wine, Valenti is the author of three cookbooks. In 2001, he established Windows of Hope, raising over $23 million to benefit 9/11 families.
Kevin Zraly
Windows on the World Wine SchoolKevin Zraly is the founder of Windows on the World Wine School. His book, Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, is the largest selling wine book in the U.S. His distinctions include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the European Wine Council and Society of Wine Educators, and a James Beard Award for Wine and Spirits Professional of the Year.

Participate in your choice of four exciting classes throughout the two-day event. You’ll cook,
eat and learn alongside acclaimed chefs, restaurateurs, and industry insiders in The FCI’s
professional facilities, the same kitchens that train the school’s career students. You will pick
up new techniques, skills, and recipes that you will be able to apply and recreate at home.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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