For more than half of the 24 years that virtuoso chef Ferran Adria has been in charge of its kitchen, the restaurant has maintained the almost unattainable Michelin three-star status and been rated the world's best restaurant five times by British magazine The Restaurant.
After a final dinner and drinks party for faithful clients and staff families, Adria will close down the restaurant and begin turning it into a top level cuisine foundation he hopes to open in 2014.
``People think I should be sad but I feel the happiest man in the world,'' said Adria. ``El Bulli is not closing. It's just transforming.''
He himself will not be sitting at a table for dinner on the final night.
``No, I'll be cooking!'' he said.
El Bulli's location in a beautiful and isolated seaside cove on Spain's far northeastern tip inspired Adria, who started off as a hotel dishwasher, to think about the essence of what makes food taste delicious, prompting him to deconstruct ingredients to what he calls the molecular level.
He would then reconstruct each dish using unexpected re-combinations of the original components, presenting them in mouthful-sized portions.
Most required instructions on how to eat them, sometimes with bare hands.
Food took on unexpected shapes, textures and temperatures as the chef used liquid nitrogen to produce vegetable or fruit foam, airy, ethereal reincarnations of solid food, combining seaweed and tea, or caviar with jellied apples.
His ``bunuelo de llebre'' is a small ball whose external surface is a chilled delicate pastry that conceals ``hot liquid hare which you must bite into with your lips closed,'' enabling its caramel-like taste to explode inside your mouth.
The restaurant's average price of (euro) 270 ($388) per head _ not including drinks, tax or tips _ was another of its distinctive features.
The diner could boast more than a million reservation requests yearly at a place that seated just 50 and opened for dinner only, usually just six months a year.
The other six months were used by Adria to travel the world in search of ideas and then to conceive and painstakingly practice preparing dishes that have astounded gastronomy critics and dedicated foodies alike.
``El Bulli will be opening again, just not for reservations,'' said Adria at a farewell press conference in the rock garden outside his restaurant surrounded by dozens of colleagues, former and current.
Among them were some of the most famous chefs to come out of the restaurant _ current world No. 1 Rene Redzepi of Denmark and Chicago's Grant Achatz.
``For me the spirit of this place has always been its freedom,'' said Redzepi, adding that ``the courage and bravery'' with which they work in his Noma restaurant ``came from here. It was like finding a treasure.''
Four of the world's top five chefs trained at the center, which takes is named from a pet bulldog owned by the German couple who first established a restaurant in the idyllic Cala Montjoi cove back in the late 1950s.
``I thought that I knew cooking,'' said Achatz, who now runs two restaurants, Alinea and Next, both considered among the leading lights in molecular gastronomy in the U.S.
``When I arrived here and walked into the kitchen for the first time (12 years ago) I felt I was on another planet.''
Achatz, like others, highlighted Adria's daring and insistence on constantly breaking new ground.
``When I came here, cuisine in America was very stale. Everyone was following each other. So to see someone taking risks, expressing themselves through real food _ it lights a fire.''
Back in the U.S., he said, ``It was very exciting to watch that seed grow and watch it spread over the country.''
At 49, Adria said he and his crew need to replenish their inspiration to come up with something new.
``There comes a time for change in everything so that we can maintain creativity,'' he said. He added that the foundation ``will create every day'' and present its findings free to the world online.
Last year, Adria acknowledged that El Bulli was struggling financially, but on Saturday he flatly denied to The Associated Press that it was closing for financial reasons.
His biographer Colman Andrews said that while the restaurant may have lost money, Adria made substantial amounts through books, conferences and side businesses that depended on his name and that of the restaurant.
Besides functioning as a think-tank and laboratory with the best chefs and food experts from around the world, Adria said the new establishment would be open for visits to everyone, from multinational executives to school kids. He said it would also be organizing benefit meals for charities and NGOs.
Although the premises may be closing to the public, Adria said he would not be stopping.
``With things as they are, with the economic crisis, it would be a total lack of respect for me to take holidays,'' he said.
Adria's immediate plans are to travel, spreading the Bulli word with trips to China, Peru and the United States, where he will give classes at Harvard. He said serious work on the foundation will begin next January although he hopes to make an important announcement Oct. 4 in Madrid.
At the news conference, Adria was presented with a giant-sized white nougat sculpture of a bulldog, in memory of the ``bulli'' _ a local Catalan word _ that inspired a name that is now legendary in the culinary firmament.
세계 최고식당 '엘 불리' 휴업
세계 최고 명성을 가진 식당 중 하나로 알려 진 스페인의 '엘 불리' 레스토랑이 30일 영업을 끝으로 당분간 휴업하면서 음식재단 으로의 변신을 시작한다고 엘 파이스 신문 인터넷판 등 현지 언론이 보도했다.
요리장 페란 아드리아가 24년 6개월간 주방을 책임져왔던 '엘 불리'는 미슐랭 가이드가 부여하는 최고등급인 별 세 개를 14년 동안 유지해왔으며, 영국 잡지 '더 레스토랑'이 선정하는 세계 최고의 식당에 다섯 차례나 오른 레스토랑이다.
카탈루냐 해변의 로지즈 휴양지에 있는 엘 불리는 매년 4월부터 10월까지만 운영됐으며 최대 식사 인원이 50명에 불과했다.
엘 불리의 수석요리장 겸 공동대표인 아드리아는 레스토랑이 문을 열지 않는 기 간에 전 세계를 돌아다니며 각지의 식재료를 맛보고 연구해 요리에 대한 새로운 영감을 얻었다고 한다.
요리장 아드리아는 이날 저녁 레스토랑 직원 가족과 엘 불리 주방을 거쳐 간 다 른 유명 레스토랑의 주방장 등을 초청해 마지막 만찬을 선사한 뒤 오는 2014년 문을 열 예정인 음식재단으로의 변신을 시작할 예정이다.
아드리아는 "사람들은 내가 슬플 것이라고 생각하겠지만 나는 세상에서 가장 행 복한 사람"이라며 "엘 불리는 폐업하는 것이 아니라 변모하는 것"이라고 말했다. (연합뉴스)