Presented by Life Inspired, “El Bulli: The Last Waltz” is a one-hour documentary featuring the last dinner served at El Bulli, a small restaurant that overlooked Cala Montjoi in Spain, a bay on Catalonia’s Costa Brava. It was a restaurant that could only accommodate 8,000 diners a season but yet it received more than two million requests.
Needless to say, El Bulli, the forever legendary Michelin 3-starred restaurant, is one of the most iconic restaurants of time.
On 30th July 2011, the restaurant closed its doors to become the “El Bulli Foundation”, creativity centre slated to open in 2014. El Bulli’s head chef, Chef Ferran Adrià served a spectacular last dinner accompanied by the best chefs in the world, all of whom had worked at El Bulli at some point in their career. Together, they became the best team ever seen in a kitchen.
We spoke to Chef Ferran Adrià, the man behind the five-time winner of the World’s Best Restaurant award, shortly after the last dinner and he waltzed us down memory lane as he recalls his time spent in El Bulli.
What is the one moment you will never forget from the last meal at El Bulli?
“To be honest, there wasn’t just one moment in particular. The whole day was magical. The happiness we all felt during the last 24 hours is indescribable. elBulli has transformed into the elBulliFoundation and for us it is very emotional to celebrate this change together with our companions who have previously shared their passion for cooking with us.”
The feeling of closing El Bulli – was it one of relief? Sadness? What was it like to close something you had taken so many years to build?
“It was not a closure. We were happy because elBulli went through a transformation that has guaranteed it a permanent point of reference in the creative sphere. We needed to transform ourselves, and on the 31st July 2011, elBulli started its transformation into elBulli Foundation.”
What are you most proud of having achieved at El Bulli?
“Just to be able to construct a philosophy that previously had been implanted in many corners of the world. The feeling of risk, the passion, the creativity and the freedom in our office.”
What will you tackle in 2013 and beyond? What new projects are in the pipeline?
“We are focusing on elBulliFoundation and the Bullpedia, although I’m sure that other interesting projects will emerge as we go along.”
What is the best advice you have ever received in your culinary career and from whom?
“To create is not to copy. Jacques Maximin. During a chat about cookery in 1987.”
Was it during a difficult or challenging period in your career?
“It was at a point of inflection in my career. It made me see that if I wanted to enjoy my profession to the maximum level, I needed to feel free to do what I wanted.”
Did you keep anything from the restaurant for memory’s sake?
“Just the marvelous moments, of which there are many, that were produced there.”
Now that the restaurant has closed, ten (or more) years down the road, how do you want it to be remembered?
“As a place where the chef’s loved their profession and tried to give it all that they could.”
The last waltz, given another opportunity, would you have done anything differently?
“No. The Last Waltz was made naturally and without preparation. It showed the reality that we lived on the last day of elBulli as a restaurant, for that reason it could not have been improved. If we had been prepared, the emotivity, the realism, the transparency that we achieved would have been impossible to reproduce.”
Since 2011, El Bulli has been reconstituted as the El Bulli Foundation. What does the foundation hope to achieve and what are some of the projects unfolding right now?
“The object of the elBulliFoundation is creativity. In elBulli it was already our main objective, but now with the elBulliFoundation we can dedicate ourselves to it in a much more exclusive way. A fascinating project driven by the elBulliFoundation is the Bullipedia, where our aim is to realign all the available knowledge of cooking to boost teaching and facilitate creativity.”
What was your most challenging task in all your years at El Bulli?
“To not lose the vision, the appetite to learn, and to be led by my passion for cooking.”
What would be your best moment while working at El Bulli?
“Probably the last day, when we started the transformation of elBulli into the elBulliFoundation.”
Okay, let us in on a secret – do you have any guilty pleasures?
“I am a huge fan of F.C. Barcelona and when they win a game I feel immensely happy!”
What is your advice to upcoming chefs?
“You must have passion for cooking. Cookery is a hard profession, but if you have a passion for it you will find it much easier. ‘Passion, Risk, and Freedom’. The slogan of the elBulliFoundation.”
Watch the talented chefs prepare the last menu and serve the last dish, “pêche Melba” in tribute to the father of the modern cuisine, Auguste Escoffier, a French chef, restaurateur, culinary writer who popularized traditional French cooking methods, and a legendary figure among chefs and gourmets.
“El Bulli: The Last Waltz” first aired on 1st January 2013 (Tuesday) at 9pm. If you missed it, fret not! It’ll be repeated on 27th January (Sunday) at 9pm, only on Life Inspired (Astro B.yond Channel 728).
Don’t miss this last glimpse of this beautiful little restaurant before it reopens as a creativity centre in 2014!