Photo by Simon Newman
Ferran Adrià home
Ferran Adrià pictured at El Bulli
Oh the renting of clothes! The tearing of hair! The wailing in the streets! Well sort of. People are at least wondering where they are going to have to go now to find a parmesan ice cream sandwich. Or a miniature tree spun with passion fruit candy floss. Or some squid membrane ravioli and seaweed foam. Ferran Adrià made the dramatic announcement this week at the MadridFusión food conference that he intends to close El Bulli—voted The S. Pellegrino Best Restaurant in the World for four years running—to the public for the 2012 and the 2013 seasons and maybe longer.
Not that this will make much difference to your average diner: the public can barely get in as it is. El Bulli only has 52 seats, opens only from April to October and only for one sitting at dinner. That means around 8,000 seats a year. Unless you are very wonderful, bookings must be made by email in mid-January, which brings forth an avalanche of some two million requests. I’ll do the maths for you: that means that only 0.4 percent of the people who apply get a seat. This year is all booked up already so, considering that there are only 2011’s 8,000 seats left to go for, El Bulli can expect a fearsome fight for these gastronomical golden tickets.
Adrià, who will be handing back his Michelin stars and other awards, cited stress, exhaustion, personal problems and the desire to further his creative experiments as the reasons for the sabbatical. So once he's put his feet up and had a spa break in the Bahamas, what’s next? As Adrià has said many times, if he was only interested in the money, he could easily make a fortune auctioning off seats at his restaurant for thousands of dollars a head, or opening up a chain of El Bulli restaurants across the world. As it stands, the restaurant operates at a loss and exists mainly to satisfy Adrià’s passion for pushing the creative boundaries of haute cuisine, a passion that is apparently being stymied by overwork.
El Bulli will continue to function as a research laboratory while Adrià develops a “new format”. Future projects outside the restaurant might include academic research into gastronomy for Harvard. Meanwhile, somebody has to take over the crown. Adrià’s stepping down from the official Best Restaurant in the World throne leaves it open to top contender, Heston Blumenthal, and his Fat Duck restaurant in Bray. Anyone for parsnip cereal and nitro-scrambled eggs?