"This is a very special day for me," Ferran Adrià told a packed auditorium Tuesday at Madrid Fusión, the annual modern-gastronomy conference in Spain's capital. "This is the last time I'll be here in front of you as Ferran Adrià the chef of El Bulli restaurant."
At last year's event, Adrià startled the food world by announcing that he planned to shutter El Bulli as a restaurant at the end of the 2011 season and reopen the site on an isolated cove called Cala Montjoi on Spain's Costa Brava, two-plus years later as a sort of educational facility. Little by little since, he has revealed more and more about his plans. When he announced that he had a major presentation to make at this year's event, the rumor mill went into overdrive: He's closing it sooner than he'd announced. He's changed his mind and is keeping it open. He won't reopen it at all…
Nope. None of the above. He wanted to offer further details about his plan, accompanied by new video presentations and joined onstage by technology-savvy, avant-garde architect Enric Ruiz-Geli (who creates sets for Robert Wilson, and mega-buildings like the New York Aquarium on Coney Island). Ruiz-Geli is in charge of designing Adrià's new facility — now dubbed elBulliFoundation (using the English word instead of the Spanish fundación). As he often does these days, Adrià showed a video timeline marking various innovations at El Bulli — the decision to close the restaurant for six months a year, the construction of the new kitchen, the establishment of the Taller, or workshop — of which he considers its conversion from eating place to creative center to be but the latest. The foundation, according to another video, will have no hours, no security, no walls, and won't take reservations; the keyword will be "liberty," as in the liberty to create. Included will be an archive, an "ideario," and "una sala brainstorm."
Ruiz-Geli explained that the architecture will be sustainable and not just respectful of natural surroundings — Cala Montjoi is in a national park — but at one with them. "Rock, trees, water, people, are all particles" proposed yet another video. This was accompanied by vaguely psychedelic pointillist animation accompanied by electronic music. The renderings look very graceful and beautiful. One pavilion looks like a series of overturned stemless wineglasses topped with a sweeping winglike wire mesh roof. Ruiz-Geli and Adrià displayed some materials, including colored glass and ceramic tiles, which will be incorporated into the new facility. "It's very poetic, very crazy," Adrià said.
After the presentation, Adrià and Ruiz-Geli gave a press conference that stretched past two hours. One of the last questions, from a Chilean journalist, was "If the foundation will be so concerned with the environment, will the culinary side use only local ingredients, or at least ingredients that come from Spain?" Adrià shook his head. "No," he said. "Creativity is not about countries."