Ferran Adria is a name you may not know, but you've felt his influence, both in the food you eat and the way you experience it. Perhaps the single most important and influential pioneer of modern cuisine, Adria reinvents the wheel not by creating a new wheel, but by changing our perceptions of what a wheel is. His philosophy could be best described as deconstructionist, whereby he doesn't just turn the world of cuisine on its head, but instead he takes it apart, swaps out some of the pieces, and puts it all back together.
Consider one of his most famous dishes: a glass jar filled with rich olive oil arrives at the table, wherein it appears there to be nothing remarkable beyond an olive or two. The 'olives' are, in fact, self-contained sphere of olive puree. Their visual appearance and flavor is identical to the olive they mimic, because that it truly all they are. Instead of a simple, if elegant, presentation of an olive, the actual olive is removed and replaced by something that elicits shock, awe, and wonder. Adria (and his team of incredible talent at the now-closed elBulli restaurant) are able to manipulate texture, form, temperature, and even function to play on guest's expectations and emotions.
Many of the techniques created and employed at elBulli have been decoded, and some are even readily available to cooks of virtually all skill levels. Ferran Adria closed elBulli in 2011, and will focus his energies on his newest project, the elBulli Foundation.