ElBulli – The World’s Best Restaurant – Makes Way for a Culinary Foundation

by Tanya Thomas on  July 31, 2011 at 7:14 PM Lifestyle News
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World-renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adria serves his last meal on Saturday at elBulli, the beachside restaurant repeatedly crowned the world's best which is closing to make way for a culinary research centre.
 ElBulli – The World’s Best Restaurant – Makes Way for a Culinary Foundation
ElBulli – The World’s Best Restaurant – Makes Way for a Culinary Foundation

The last supper at the remote eatery overlooking the Mediterranean in Cala Montjoi near the resort of Roses, about a two-hour drive north of Barcelona, will be served to longtime staff members and early supporters of the venture.

It will be followed by a party to celebrate the creation of the culinary think-tank, which will open in 2014 in a facility to be built beside the restaurant.

Guests include several chefs from other top restaurants from around the world who once worked at elBulli, which is reached by driving along a steep mountain road surrounded by olive trees and pines.

"This transformation is not easy, there is much to manage," said Adria, the co-owner and head chef of the restaurant as he sat at a table outside the eatery with past and current elBulli chefs dressed in pristine whites.

"It would be logical for this to be a very sad day but it is the opposite, we are happy, very happy because the project will continue."

The elBullifoundation plans to grant between 20 and 25 scholarships annually for chefs to spend a year working with elBulli's core staff on new creations. The results will be posted online.

Adria's trailblazing approach to cooking uses hi-tech methods to take apart and rebuild foods in surprising ways.

Apple caviar, parmesan crystal and foie gras noodles frozen with liquid nitrogen are among the radical innovations which he has developed since he became head chef at elBulli in 1987.

The restaurant is credited with pushing the boundaries of cuisine and helping to transform Spain from a culinary backwater to a world leader.

Britain's Restaurant magazine ranked it to be number one on its list of the world's top 50 restaurants for a record five times -- in 2002 when the list was first published and for four years in a row through 2009.

Several chefs who worked at elBulli and went on to found top restaurants of their own credit the freedom which they had to break culinary rules during their time at the eatery for their success.

"The courage and freedom to do what we do at our restaurant came from here. And that is like finding a treasure," said Rene Redzepi, head chef and co-owner of Noma in Copenhagen which deposed elBulli at the top of Restaurant magazine's rankings last year.

"I would like to thank everyone here for helping free my imagination."

Noma, which serves Nordic specialities in a converted 18th-century shipping warehouse, was ranked the world's best restaurant in 2011 for the second year in a row.

elBulli was not included in the rankings this year because it was closing.

"To see someone taking risks and expressing themselves through cooking, through food, it lights a fire," said Grant Achatz, the head chef at Chicago's acclaimed Alinea restaurant who also spent time at elBulli.

elBulli was open only half the year. Staff at the 50-seat restaurant annually fielded more than two million requests for its roughly 8,000 sittings, with tables in the rustic dining room alloted mostly by form of lottery.

Dinner was a degustation menu of between 30 and 50 small dishes, often accompanied with instructions on how they should be savoured, that took four of five hours to eat.

Each meal -- not including, tax, drinks or tip -- cost 270 euros ($385).

But despite its popularity, the restaurant was losing half a million euros a year, in part because preparing the dozens of items on the degustation menu often involved more chefs in the kitchen than the diners it hosts in one night.

It made up the shortfall through a series of elBulli spin-offs, including books, a range of kitchenware, speaking engagements and by lending his name to a range of products, from olive oil to cutlery.

Source: AFP

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