Better hurry up if you want to eat or work at El Bulli, the Spanish restaurant universally acknowledged as the world’s best. Its chef, Ferran Adrià, says he’s going to keep it closed during all of 2012 and 2013, then come up with something even wilder and better. How can the rest of us get a schedule like this?
We don’t know if El Bulli actually is the world’s best restaurant, but it’s definitely the hardest to get into. The 2010 season runs from June 15 to December 21, and every table was booked long ago. Those who e-mailed their 2010 reservation request as soon as El Bulli began accepting reservation requests last fall got this response almost immediately. “We have received an extraordinary demand and are obligated to inform you that it will be impossible to fulfill most of the requests, even those received at the first moment.”
Next, for most, came the rejection notice. “The demand has again surpassed our limited possibilities of reservations for one season and we regret not to be able to fulfill more requests.”
So it definitely wasn’t business conditions that drove the decision to shut El Bulli down for two years. Instead, the restaurant says that since El Bulli will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012, Adrià has “decided to commemorate this anniversary with the closure of one cycle and the beginning of a new phase, in which a radical approach to the creative process and the pursuit of new challenges and stimulus will be the main priority.”
Sounds logical, but the food world wondered if Adrià was just burnt out. He says no. “These are not two years on sabbatical,” he told reporters last week at avant garde culinary gathering Madrid Fusion. “I need time to decide how 2014 is going to be…I know that when I return it will not be the same.” Even so, the chef admitted to the news media that keeping up with his current 15-hour workdays is “difficult.”
Adrià isn’t saying what changes he will make to El Bulli, but he has outlined what the priorities will be.
“El Bulli will remain closed to the public during 2012 and 2013. This period will be devoted to thinking, planning and preparing the new format for subsequent years,” he said in a statement on the restaurant’s website.
“El Bulli will open again in 2014, constantly challenging the possibilities of the concept of a restaurant, based on the following criteria:
“a. Research will be prioritized over production.
“b. Each season will be different in terms of opening dates and times, capacity of the restaurant in terms of diners, staff, etc., going beyond the pursuit of innovation that El Bulli has been undertaking ever since the decision was among other things to open only for 6 months, offer only one sitting per day and cancel the standard menu.”
In other words, the chef who brought molecular gastronomy into prominence will be taking it in a new direction, even though his current direction already has him at the bleeding edge of culinary innovation. We don’t know what he might have in mind, but it will likely be worth the waiting.
There’s still a chance you could get a table or perhaps do a stage at El Bulli in 2011. The restaurant says it will post its calendar for that year sometime during September 2010. You can try getting a reservation through the usual channels, although it’s going to be a long shot of long shots. It might be better to tap into your network of restaurant world friends to see if one of them might have an in with Adrià. That’s how many U.S. food people typically score a reservation, and that’s how up-and-coming chefs land short-term positions in El Bulli’s kitchen. Good luck on either front; it’s going to be your last chance for a while.