Spain kitchen spat boils over as top chef hits out

MADRID Tue Jun 17, 2008 5:04pm EDT

MADRID (Reuters) - Top international chef Ferran Adria from Spain hit back on Wednesday at a fellow three star Michelin cook who labeled his type of "molecular gastronomy" pretentious.

Last month Santi Santamaria, a traditionalist, took aim at restaurants like Adria's El Bulli which is ranked as the world's best by Britain's Restaurant magazine.

Santamaria said Adria's dishes were designed to impress rather than satisfy and used chemicals that actually put diners health at risk.

Adria's avant-garde creations are often the result of a high-tech distillation of flavors into foams and gels.

"Without a doubt these have been the saddest weeks in the history of Spanish cooking," said Adria who dreams up dishes like oyster shot glass with tempura raisin wine and gnocchi of polenta with coffee and saffron yuba.

"It has been made clear that these products are totally healthy and they have been used for 50 years," Adria told Spanish state television, in his first response to Santamaria's remarks last month.

"(For example) the best chocolate in the world contains lecithin, which makes it more fluid ... and what we've done is take this to serve in another dish".

Every table at his restaurant near Barcelona is booked from April right through to the end of October when it closes so Adria can spend five months creating new dishes.

A number of top chefs have already issued a statement accusing the self-taught Santamaria, who runs the three-starred Can Fabes near El Bulli, of jealousy and of endangering the hard-won reputation of Spainish kitchens.

Can Fabes' menu features dishes such as suckling pig served with lobster and lamb with figs.

(Reporting by Ben Harding; Editing by Matthew Jones)