Business, Finance & Economics

Famed Spanish Restaurant El Bulli Reopens as Foundation and Lab

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Ferran Adria presents the El Bulli Foundation in Barcelona. It's a way of transforming his legendary, and closed, restaurant into a non-stop source of culinary creativity. And the whole thing will be open to the public, from the food lab to the restaurant itself, which will become a museum.

A Spanish eatery called Can Roca has won best restaurant in the world this year, from Restaurant Magazine. The three Roca brothers run their kitchen less than an hour from a former winner: El Bulli, tucked up along the Spanish-French border, was the top pick four years running, from 2006 through 2009.

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It's chef and mastermind, Ferran Adria, is considered the most cutting edge cook of modern times. But Adria closed El Bulli at the height of its success.

In that sense Adria is like Willie Wonka. Albeit with food. A legend. A guy who can take a pecan and a clump of Spinach and change your taste buds forever. But a guy like that, what's he to do once he's dazzled the world for years on end?

Unlike Wonka, Adria doesn't go into hiding. He starts a foundation.

But what's the foundation supposed to do? He's not entirely sure.

So Adria gets 31 of the best business schools from around the world to give him ideas. Today at the IESE business school in Barcelona, Adria presented the El Bulli Foundation's master plan.

The presentation was at a breakfast. An El Bulli-style breakfast, designed by Adria himself. First up, a tiny brioche with an olive tapenade swirled on top. Sweet and salty. Delicious.

The breakfast is 10 courses. Dinner at El Bulli was around 37 courses. You'd eat things like Iberian Ham Tapioca, or Spherical Egg of White Asparagus with False Truffle.

This breakfast isn't quite so exotic, but it ain't flapjacks and bacon either

We're served brazed Catalan cream on sponge cake with a lemon garnish; crunchy Parmesan crisps made from pie dough. There's also a chocolate coulant with cool mango puree, and paper-thin slices of Manchego cheese served on miniature nutbread buns.

And after, the presentation. El Bulli Foundation will do three things. It'll fund a 50 person food lab where cooks will keep on inventing. They'll publish their findings, as it were, on a webpage called Bullipedia: your one-stop internet site for, say, the latest on freezing polenta in liquid nitrogen.

I asked Adria if this isn't all going too far. Business schools, food theory, intellectualizing eating. Food's for your stomach, not for your head, right?

Adria answered with his own question: Do you want talk about food?

"If you want to talk about simple family meals," he said, "that's great. But the second you discuss vanguard recipes, the conversation automatically becomes intellectual."

There's room for it all, he said.

Then there's El Bulli itself. The restaurant has been shut for three years now. But Adria is going to reopen the space as an interactive museum, visitor's center and source of inspiration.

"What we want to endure is El Bulli's concept of innovation," he said. "The spirit of the place, of all the people who passed through our doors."

The details have yet to come together, but Adria suggested imagining a mix of Cirque du Soleil, a scientist's laboratory and a Salvador Dali landscape.

The foundation opens in 2015.

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