Albert Adrià: The Magician of the Moment

El Bulli's secret weapon is a secret no longer

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Call him biased if you like, but when the man widely considered to be the world's best chef tells you who really deserves the title, you pay attention. "The best cook I've ever come across," says Ferran Adrià, "is my brother Albert."

For most of his career, Albert Adrià labored leeward of Ferran. Although Albert joined the staff at elBulli--the now closed restaurant on the coast of Catalonia renowned for avant-garde cuisine--a mere year after his brother started and stayed until 2009, the younger brother never achieved the fame of the outspoken Ferran. Yet it was he who developed many of its iconic dishes--such as desserts that evoked natural landscapes like the forest floor--and revolutionized the world of pastry by, among other things, creating desserts that weren't necessarily sweet. "He does all the work but manages to stay in the shadows," says Momofuku's David Chang.

Albert is hardly in the shadows anymore. In the past four years, he has opened four restaurants in the same Barcelona neighborhood, to resounding success. Each is distinct: Tickets is a whimsical tapas bar, Pakta specializes in the Peruvian-Japanese cuisine known as Nikkei, Bodega 1900 is a casual vermouth bar, and 41° offers a procession of 41 small courses reminiscent of elBulli. What they share are his hallmarks--astonishing creativity and utter deliciousness. "They're all part of the same process of me working out my own language," he says.

Albert plans to open a Mexican restaurant in early 2014 and is considering one just for children. With the modesty that so many of his peers admire, he says, "If I'm going to have a great impact, it's still to come."