就是拍出「英雄」以前的張藝謀，或是李安，或者是 Ferran Adria。
After El Bulli, a Sweet Taste of Life
ROSES, Spain — Stepping out of a helicopter that was ferrying guests to a special dinner at El Bulli, the British fashion designer Ozwald Boateng wore an emerald-green suit and the smile of a person who had just won the lottery.
Spain Travel Guide
“I still can’t believe this invitation because I’ve heard there’s almost zero chance of booking a table here,” he said.
At the end of July, El Bulli’s celebrity chef, Ferran Adrià, will close a restaurant that has repeatedly been voted the world’s best and that receives about two million booking requests a year. But the wooden-beamed establishment, which overlooks a cove along Spain’s Costa Brava, struggles to fit more than 50 people for dinner.
El Bulli’s closing, announced in January 2010, stunned the world of high cuisine that Mr. Adrià has helped to reshape. It also fueled speculation about whether legal, financial or even health problems had led to his decision, rather than what the Catalan chef professed to be an urge to spend two years out of the kitchen before starting afresh. He has also, since September, been helping to teach a Harvard class on the science of cooking that he largely designed.
“I’m not a multimillionaire, but I don’t have to work anymore, and I knew that it was time to take a break and then do something different,” Mr. Adrià said before the dinner, given last Friday by Dom Pérignon.
His plan is to reopen El Bulli as a culinary research foundation that will publish its findings online at no charge. Rather than inventing more recipes, Mr. Adrià — known as the father of “molecular gastronomy,” a term he dislikes — wants to explore broader ideas on food and cooking techniques that might be of use to cooks and restaurant owners worldwide, who “often just don’t have the time to think about creation,” he said.
Such altruism will also help erase any aura of elitism that El Bulli may have generated, which Mr. Adrià said was “something that was perhaps inevitable but that I haven’t sought.”
The recent speculation over why El Bulli had remained unprofitable, he said, was proof that outsiders had misunderstood goals that stretch well beyond business rationale. Mr. Adrià said that he had always intended to use El Bulli as his showcase and offset its costs through other culinary ventures. For instance, with his brother Albert, Mr. Adrià opened a tapas restaurant and cocktail bar this year in Barcelona, the Catalan capital about 150 kilometers, or 90 miles, south of El Bulli.
“Some of what I’ve been doing is for business reasons, but El Bulli itself has never been about making money, because if it had been, I could have charged €1,000 and we would still have been full,” he said. The restaurant’s set menu costs €285, or about $400.
Mr. Adrià is squeezing more revenue out of El Bulli by allowing some corporations to hold private dinners, at a cost of €125,000, which he said would be channeled into the research foundation.
Mr. Boateng was among the guests at the first of such dinners given by Dom Pérignon, which also offered Mr. Adrià a chance to work alongside its veteran chef de cave, Richard Geoffroy. “Champagne is the only thing that can accompany a meal of more than 45 courses,” Mr. Adrià said. “With other drinks, you would go mad.”
In the end, six Dom Pérignon vintages accompanied a 47-course menu that featured many of the dishes that helped place Mr. Adrià at the vanguard of modern high cuisine, thanks to his pioneering use of chemical emulsifiers and additives like liquid nitrogen, to achieve instant freezing, and methyl cellulose, a gelling agent.
Dom Pérignon’s guest list was cosmopolitan — but not as diverse the restaurant staff of unpaid apprentices representing 17 different nationalities.Some of that staff will become Mr. Adrià’s assistants at his foundation. The rest have been busy looking for alternative employment, like Marie-Paule Herman, a 24-year old Dutch, an assistant sommelier at El Bulli who will start another trainee position in September at Noma in Copenhagen. “It’s been about hard work and discipline here, but every minute of it has been worth it,” she said.René Redzepi, the chef of Noma, was himself a kitchen apprentice to Mr. Adrià. Noma was recently named — for the second year running — the best restaurant in the world in the San Pellegrino rankings compiled by Restaurant, a British publication.
While El Bulli will close soon, Rafael Ansón, the president of the Royal Spanish Academy of Gastronomy, which helps promote the country’s cuisine, noted that “we now have 15 or even 20 restaurants in Spain that are just as good, but that all owe at least some of that to Ferran Adrià — and probably the same applies to restaurants outside of Spain.”
However far Mr. Adrià’s culinary vision has spread, most guests at the Dom Pérignon dinner were unfamiliar with his approach to cooking.
“This is the ultimate experience in design that food can offer and this is what must make this place so special,” said Marc Newson, a leading London-based industrial designer. “The food is deconstructed and then reconstructed, challenging each one of us to think about food in an intellectual way that is very far removed from food as something that is needed to stay alive.”
Sampling his 25th dish, made of frozen parmesan sprinkled with muesli nuts, Mr. Boateng was still delighted. “This meal is pure theater and genius,” he said, “ even if it’s hard to keep up.”
Indeed, dining at El Bulli can feel somewhat relentless, both because of the number of dishes and the need to grasp much of the food with one’s hands and eat it before it starts to melt or crumble. Dinner conversation is regularly interrupted by waiters delivering information in stern tones that can sometimes be purposefully misleading. Heather Graham, a Hollywood actress, winced after swallowing half of a glass of what had been described as hare’s blood. “I would much rather pace myself for the chocolate,” she said. (The drink was beetroot juice.)
The menu emphasizes the visual as much as the tasting experience of food, and reflects Mr. Adrià’s fascination with kaiseki, the traditional Japanese multicourse meal. One of the highlights was a paper-thin slice of candy floss that came encrusted with colorful flowers.
During his sabbatical, Mr. Adrià is planning to travel to study culinary traditions, starting with a visit to China in August.
Having begun in the restaurant world as a plate washer, Mr. Adrià is amazed to find himself at such a pinnacle. “I didn’t even go to university, so how could I imagine teaching one day at Harvard?” he said. “Everything that has happened in my life has been unthinkable.”