Will the elBulli Foundation Have to Find a New Home?

An online petition gathers 50,000 signatures opposing Ferran Adrià's visionary project
Francesco Guillamet

Adrià's new elBulli complex will affect about five acres of parkland in Spain's Cap de Creus Natural Park.

When he closed his legendary restaurant elBulli three summers ago, Ferran Adrià was adamant that elBulli hadn't closed, but was evolving into something new and different — no longer a restaurant serving haute cuisine of a most original and refined sort, but a gastronomic foundation to be based in the same beautiful, isolated cove, Cala Montjoi, in the Costa Brava region of Spanish Catalonia. The new institution, he promised, would open in 2013.

Adrià's conception of the nature of the elBulli Foundation has itself evolved since the restaurant shuttered, into three distinct though interrelated facets. One of these, the Bullipedia Lab, dedicated to the creation of what the famed chef describes as "a search engine of gastronomy," opened in Barcelona this spring. The other portions — elBulli 1846 (the number signifies both the birth year of the seminal French chef Auguste Escoffier and the total number of original recipes generated at elBulli in the Adrià years), which will be, says Adrià, "an exhibition devoted to the history of cooking, the culinary genome, and the creative genome," and elBulli DNA, which he characterizes as "30 or 40 creative people, not just chefs but people in other disciplines, sharing the creative process, with everything broadcast online in real time" — are planned to occupy new structures and the repurposed original elBulli buildings on Cala Montjoi. It is now clear that these will open in 2015 at the earliest — though they will not open there at all if a group of opponents of the project have their way.

A petition started on the Spanish edition of Change.org by Carolina Sanpera Trigueros — not, as has been reported elsewhere "a local woman," but a professor in the vertebrate unit of the Department of Animal Biology and Zoology at the University of Barcelona — calls for the Catalan government not to pass a special law enabling Adrià and his team to proceed with their plans for the site. The problem is that, while elBulli and a nearby holiday campground have existed for many decades on Cala Montjoi, the region is part of the 46,720-acre Natural Park of Cap de Creus, a protected nature sanctuary.

According to the petition, headed "Let's save the Cap de Creus Natural Park," the elBulli complex will affect more than 20,000 square meters (about five acres) of parkland. "For the process to be carried out at this location," it continues, "it is necessary for the government [of Catalonia] to invalidate laws protecting the Natural Park. The process is already underway. On July 14, the government of Catalonia took the first step by publishing a draft law declaring the elBulli project to be in the 'public interest'…." The point, according to the document, is that "A nature reserve is a protected area that belongs to us all and a legacy for future generations…The area of Cap de Creus and its surroundings do not need tourist attractions…" The petition suggests that the Foundation should be installed elsewhere, outside the confines of the park.

Posting a comment on the petition page, one Xavier Fortuny of Fornells de la Selva, an inland town about an hour's drive southwest of Cala Montjoi, writes, "At a time when poverty and misery are affecting a large part of the population, this unbridled worship of haute cuisine seems indecent…"

According to Change.org, the petition has thus far collected 50,000 signatures.

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"As usual," Adrià told The Daily Meal, "there are people who are against everything, but the project is going forward."