Dec 14 2023

Ferran Adrià

Few would question that Ferran Adrià (1962, L'Hospitalet, Barcelona) is the most important, revolutionary and groundbreaking chef of 20th century gastronomy. His career is necessarily linked to that of elBulli, the restaurant he joined in 1983 when, under the management of Juli Soler, it achieved the three Michelin stars distinction and became the most relevant restaurant in the World. The restaurant had been named after the pet bulldog owned by the initial owners, the Schillings from Germany. They had arrived in Cala Montjoi in 1961, and in 1975 took on Jean Louis Neichel as chef. One year later, they received their first Michelin star. In the late 1970s, Juli Soler paid a visit to elBulli which was to determine his, and its, future. He was keen to get away from the bustle of the city and eventually accepted the offer made him by the Schillings to manage the restaurant. In 1981, with chef Jean Paul Vinay on board, they were awarded with the second Michelin star. And this was the time that Ferran Adrià came into contact with the restaurant which was to radically change his life. From 1984, Ferran had committed himself to a position on the restaurant staff and a new era was beginning.

"It is very difficult to be innovative at the highest level in any discipline. For some chefs, it’s simply a matter of combining ingredients, but that’s something you can do with your eyes closed." - Ferran Adrià

Adrià and Soler, together in the lead

Another important date in the history of elBulli was 1990, when Juli Soler and Ferran Adrià decided to start up a company managing new projects originating in the restaurant. This triggered one of the most creative and expansive periods in the elBulli universe. Talks were given on the premises, leading to the first culinary and gastronomic workshops for professionals. In 1997, the restaurant received its third Michelin star. At the time there were only two other 3-star restaurants in Spain, Arzak and El Racó de Can Fabes. In 2000, they opened the elBullitaller, so that they could separate their two research teams: one to innovate for the restaurant, and the other to devise business projects. Ferran Adrià's media presence, which continues today with his participation in the world’s most important gastronomic events, took off in 1999, when the Sunday supplement of El País featured him on its front page under the headline "El mejor cocinero del mundo" (The world's best chef). The early years of the 21st century brought about an explosion of reports on the Adrià phenomenon, referring not only to his work and that of the whole elBulli team but also bringing other leaders of Spain's culinary movement into the limelight. By this time, the chef's upward progression was unstoppable. The ground-breaking work by Ferran’s team led to the creation in 2002 of the scientific department at elBullitaller, and in 2004 the Alicia Foundation was set up at the request of public and private institutions for collaboration by Ferran in studies relating food with science and gastronomy from an experimental and social viewpoint.

Ferran Adria in in El Bulli restaurant's kitchen

Show must go on

At the close of 2008, Harvard University proposed that an agreement for collaboration be set up with Ferran Adrià and his team at elBulli, to be named Dialogues between Science and Cuisine. The chef was delighted to accept and involved his Alicia Foundation in the project. Yet again, the academic and culinary worlds come together in association with Adrià.April of 2009 year saw the presentation of a book featuring Ferran Adrià and his work. The British artist Richard Hamilton and the Spanish expert on contemporary art Vicente Todolí were behind Food for Thought: Thought for Food (Actar, 2009), a reflection on the cuisine and the art that stemmed from the presence of elBulli at Documenta 2007.

A leap into the unknown

Madridfusión 2010 will always be remembered as the year in which Ferran officially confirmed a change of focus for elBulli. At a packed press conference he announced that the restaurant would close during 2012 and 2013, and that a number of changes would be made before it was re-opened. Over these two years the team will be analyzing all the elBulli know-how related to cooking, techniques and styles gained over its 30-year creative career, work that will be reflected in a thorough and detailed encyclopedia. The exercise will also set the tone for elBulli's activities over the coming years.At the 2011 Madridfusión event, Ferran Adrià announced the set up a non-profit making foundation, elBullifoundation, “focused on promoting cutting-edge cuisine and supplying society with professionals capable of working at the forefront", how the Catalan chef summed things up passionately. Everything that comes out of the foundation will be published daily on the web site, with the intention of providing help and inspiration to individuals and companies with an interest in innovation, development and research. For this side of things, the foundation already has two sponsors, two Spanish companies with which it is working closely: Tecnalia and Telefónica, who will be providing all the technical and technological support they need for carrying out elBullifoundation projects.

"Risk is to do something that 99 percent of the time would be a failure." - Ferran Adrià

Bye elBulli, Hello Foundation

30 July 2011. That date will be always remembered by everyone who had the chance to know elBulli. Ferran Adrià and his team of fifty or so young chefs closed the doors of elBulli forever, leaving behind a formidable legacy that changed the world of cooking and cuisine forever. Dreaming of NYC with José Andrés In 2017 Spanish-born US-based chef José Andrés announced the opening of Mercado Little Spain in Hudson Yards with the collaboration of Ferran and his brother, the also groundbreaking Albert Adrià. In the years after the closure of elBulli, elbulliFoundation have worked in sharing experiences in management and innovation, generate high quality content for the dining sector -as the volumes of the Bullipedia about wine or food history- providing a valuable self-learning and educational tool and, finally, safeguarding the legacy of elBullirestaurante as a physical space and also as a fund of knowledge and documentary resource responsible for changing the paradigm of the fine dining sector worldwide, something that has lead to the opening of elBulli1846 in June of 2023, a museum to reflect on knowledge, innovation and the history of elBulli, in the historic building that once housed elBullirestaurante: the circle has been closed.