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Truly Sad News

February 14, 2010

El Bulli to Close Permanently after losses of 500,000 euros a year

Ferran Adrià, the Catalan chef who for two decades has been the leading catalyst and inspiration for avant-garde cuisine, has decided to permanently close his restaurant El Bulli, considered by many to be the world’s greatest, and to replace it with an academy for advanced culinary study, Mr. Adrià said in an interview on Friday.

In January, Mr. Adrià had said that the restaurant would go on a hiatus starting in 2012 , but that it would reopen in 2014. For many years El Bulli, in the Mediterranean town of Roses, north of Barcelona, closed for half the year so Mr. Adrià and his chefs could spend the off months developing new techniques, like the foams, airs and other culinary wizardry that he has created.

He told The Wall Street Journal at that time that his research would “be focused on sustaining and growing our brand however possible. A brand with goals like ours requires a big capital investment.’’

On Friday he said he decided to close the restaurant for good because he and his partner, Juli Soler, had been losing a half million Euros a year on the restaurant and his cooking workshop in Barcelona.

“At that level of contribution,’’ he said of the losses, “I think we would rather see the money go to something larger that expands the concept and spirit of what El Bulli represents.’’

He said he would use that money — which he earns mostly from consultancies and other businesses — to establish his new academy and to finance scholarships so the world’s most talented cooks can attend.

“We had planned to use the two years to see how El Bulli could evolve,’’ Mr. Adrià said in a telephone interview. “We’ve been looking at many options, but yesterday we decided that the foundation would be the most satisfying.’’

He said of the demands of the restaurant, “at that bestial pace, it would be impossible to continue.’’

Adrià said the academy would be “a place for free thinking and kicking around ideas’’ about food. The El Bulli academy would likely work with many cooking schools around the world and would seek students — perhaps 25 in the first year — who had the highest levels of professional training.

“Throughout the history of El Bulli we’ve made seemingly drastic decisions in order to maintain our level of creativity,’’ he said.

Mr. Adrià, 47, arrived at El Bulli in 1983, when it was a French restaurant. Soon he took charge of the kitchen and by the 1990s it became known as a laboratory for daring innovation.

“Mr. Adrià’s idea, as he describes it, was simply to ‘do new things with old concepts,’’’ Mark Bittman wrote in 2006. “So, seeing chicken curry as a concept and determining to do something that hadn’t been done before, he developed a dish, now famous, in which the sauce is solid and the chicken liquid.’’

In 1997 he won three Michelin stars. He has since been proclaimed by many to be the greatest chef in the world. He has been widely influential in the spread of “molecular gastronomy’’ — a term he has renounced.

The restaurant will reopen for six months on June 15 after its winter break and will close for good in December 2011.

The 3,000 people on the waiting list for one of about four dozen seats, will just have to hope that someday Mr. Adrià will open another restaurant.

He said that has no plans to, but the academy might be open for breakfast, or an occasional lunch. (And he is the director of gastronomy at El Bulli Hacienda Benazuza hotel near Sevilla.)

“Everything new looks strange,’’ Mr. Adrià said.

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