The Architecture and Transformation of elBulli archdaily.com
elBulli has been voted the best in the world five times (including in 2009) by Restaurant magazine, the recognized arbiter of such things. In 2011, a handful of the world's best chefs, including Rene Redzepi, Joan Roca and Grant Achatz, gathered in the speckled morning sunlight of Spain's Cala Montjoi to commemorate a passing. It should have been a sad occasion. But the man who had brought them all together emphasized that there was no death, only transformation. "My brother Albert said we had to kill the monster," said Ferran Adrià. "But I said, No, we have to tame it."
The monster to which Adrià referred is elBulli, the restaurant that he and his brother — along with, over the past 25 years, roughly 2,000 other chefs, cooks, waiters and captains — have made the most acclaimed and influential of our time. As anyone even mildly interested in food knows by now, elBulli served its last meal as a restaurant on July 30, 2011.
Ferran Adrià, the chef of elBulli and his team will still be working at elBulli, developing ideas and trying to figure out what comes next. But he says the restaurant's current format is finished. "When we come back in 2014, it's not going to be the same," Adrià says.
Frequently referred to as the founder of molecular gastronomy — a term the chef himself reviles — Adrià and his team have revolutionized modern cuisine with their constant search for new techniques and ingredients. In their hands, olive oil has been "spherified" until it takes on the shape and texture of caviar, and Gorgonzola cheese has been transformed with liquid nitrogen into a frozen globe that looked like nothing so much as a dinosaur egg. Dinner at elBulli, which consists of 30 or so courses, is a unique experience that has diners routinely laughing in delighted surprise at the new sensations provoked by the food on their plate.
The change will bring other sacrifices as well: Adrià and his team will have to relinquish their three Michelin stars, for example, and no one knows how they'll pay for the two years of inquiry without customers to finance them. But citing a desire to spend more time with his family, the chef says he needs a break from serving food to figure out what comes next. "We still want to be creating in 2020," he says, "but for that to be possible, we have to normalize our lives."
Adrià has detailed to TIME his plans to reinvent what many consider the most influential restaurant in the world. "In the 25-year history of El Bulli, there have been five moments of rupture, and now it's time for another," says Adrià. "The one thing we can't have is monotony."
In the past, those "ruptures" involved opening only for dinner and developing a workshop to test new ideas during the six months the restaurant is closed each year. This one will be more dramatic. El Bulli will change from a restaurant to a nonprofit foundation, operating as a think tank where talented young chefs will explore new directions in gastronomy. It's a subject with which Adrià, 47, and his team have ample experience. The chef will probably always be identified with radical innovations like potato foam and foie gras "noodles" frozen with liquid nitrogen. But more than any one dish or technique, he has changed the way people think about food. Chefs around the world have adopted not only his dazzling concoctions but his ethos — to bring science, art and cooking into closer collaboration; to use food not only to please and satiate but also to amaze and provoke; and above all, to constantly reinvent. Fellow holder of three Michelin stars, chef Juan Mari Arzak defines Adrià's role simply: "He is the most important chef in the history of cuisine."
Adrià is careful to emphasize that he is not opening a culinary school. "This is about creativity more than cooking," he says. "We're not going to be teaching anyone how to break down a cod." The foundation will grant fellowships to 20 or 25 young cooks a year so they may spend 12 months working with El Bulli's core staff, investigating new techniques and developing new flavors. Discussions led by prominent chefs and leaders in art and design will complement their research. Each year, the foundation will release a book and video that catalog its discoveries, and a team will disseminate those ideas at chefs' conferences and culinary schools. The fellows will also help Adrià compile an encyclopedia of contemporary cuisine. To accommodate all this, El Bulli will expand. The sleek, airy kitchen and homey dining room will remain untouched, but Adrià and Soler are meeting with architects to draw up plans for an audiovisual room and a library. The two have high ambitions for the foundation, which has already attracted interest from outside sponsors. "Our dream is that each year, we'll turn out one or two chefs who will be extremely important for the future of cuisine."
That's all well and good, but for the millions of gourmands who clamor for one of the 8,000 reservations the restaurant assigns in an annual lottery, the more pressing question is, Will there be anything to eat? "We're changing the economic model, and we're changing the reservation system," says Adrià. "But we're still going to be feeding people." How exactly they'll do that is yet to be decided. The restaurant will be open for normal six-month seasons in 2010 and 2011, but after that, all bets are off. When it reopens in 2014, El Bulli may offer impromptu tastings, Adrià says, and will serve roughly 60 meals a year in the formal style of a restaurant. Just don't ask him how they'll decide who gets in.
Why all the changes? Like many restaurants with three Michelin stars, El Bulli does not make a profit. (Its principals support themselves through consulting, investments and speaking engagements.) But Adrià says the financial burdens of the restaurant, as well as the obstacles it poses to family life, merely accelerated his decision, not determined it. His primary motivation was to maintain the creative spark. "Part of my job is to see into the future, and I could see that our old model is finished," he says. "It's time to figure out what comes next."
Story By: Lisa Abend
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1964802,00.html#ixzz28iTtBSGv
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1956713,00.html#ixzz28iNTjVSu
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