“Take out four fondues! The last dish in the history of El Bulli… as a restaurant! Take them out! Come on!”
An enormous roar from the clapping crowd started as intense emotions swept over the group – was it heartbreak? Sadness? Hopelessness? One might think it was at least one of those emotions but no, it was joy; joy from the sheer gratitude that they would be given one of the greatest gifts in the world – time. For there is nothing more precious in the world than to be given more time to create, think, achieve and accomplish the Herculean mission to stimulate people’s creativity worldwide and find balance within the body and mind.
El Bulli, the restaurant that ceased to exist after July 30th, 2011, allowed El Bulli, the culinary center, to be born the next day. It is fair to say that El Bulli was the best restaurant in the world and its leader, Ferran Adrià, is the most influential chef of modern times. The list of awards and accolades seems never-ending, with the proclamation of “best” and “most influential” stated numerous times during its time under the reign of the master, Ferran Adrià. Even those who achieved such awards as the “best” after he closed the restaurant were mainly chefs who either studied under him or have been greatly influenced by his accomplishments.
Ferran pushed the boundaries of avant-garde cuisines to impossible levels and didn’t simply have a key selection of celebrated dishes he would bring out year after year. Instead, he would close the restaurant each winter to create new recipes that would makeup the around 35-course meal for the following year. In the 1990s, Ferran did the unthinkable – he established gatherings where he would share his recipes with other chefs, which was unheard of at the time. But since he was always creating new ways to first give people happiness and then, second, to make them think, there was no need to jealously guard his recipes as his mission was not just to create a name for himself but instead empower all cooks to spread happiness by enlightening the minds of their patrons.
It is no wonder that when he announced the permanent closure of El Bulli the restaurant, the news was placed on the front pages of many of the most esteemed international newspapers worldwide.
The master, Juvé & Camps, who had spent so much time bringing happiness to others, finally realized the happiest day of his own life – after he closed the restaurant. El Bulli was undoubtedly known as the best restaurant in the world. But despite two million people requesting tables per season for a restaurant that only had 52 seats per seating, with demand never being their issue, it was still barely getting by, financially. Ferran wanted to make it accessible by only charging around $325 per person as it would allow everyone to have a fair opportunity to experience such a meal. It’s shocking, considering it was considered by many the greatest of the greats, and many top restaurants in New York City easily charge $1,000 per person. So El Bulli couldn’t wholly pay all of their staff, which included 40 chefs in the expansive, ultra-modern kitchen, and Ferran said that they just got used to having no money and many talented young chefs jumped at the chance to learn from the master. But Ferran was never about having an elitist restaurant; he wanted to make people “happy” by getting them to “think” in different ways on a conscious and unconscious level and so, at a certain point, he felt the best way to devote himself to such a mission was to close the restaurant and take the time to work towards the best situation to link various types of knowledge with different disciplines, such as engineering, neuroscience, philosophy, art and cuisine, to name a few.
Eventually, he started the El Bulli Foundation in February of 2013 with the mission to safeguard the legacy of the El Bulli restaurant, to share experiences in management and innovation that could be applied to any entrepreneurial project and to generate high-quality content for the fine dining world.
Part of their mission of producing high-quality content was to devise a methodology called ‘Sapiens,’ which in Latin refers to a discerning, wise person. This methodology is both “holistic” as well as “systemic.” So, it is a system that draws on a multitude of perspectives and experiences that are all interconnected, even if their connections are not apparent at first. Yes, they have released a series of books on cuisine but, recently, they have released a series of books on wine using the Sapiens method.
“What are a scientist, a sommelier, a philosopher, and the ‘best chef in the world’ doing at the same table?”
That is how the Wine Sapiens books started, according to Ferran Centelles, the wine director of the El Bulli Foundation, as well as a longtime sommelier at the restaurant, and after ten years of investigative research, which is still ongoing, eight volumes with more than 4,500 pages including wine observations from a scientific, artistic and gastronomic perspective have been produced by Ferran Adrià and Ferran Centelles gathering a team of experts that spent countless hours on “discoveries, arguments, surprises, and a few (momentary) frustrations.”
The family-owned Spanish winery, Juvé & Camps, known for their high-quality Gran Reserva Cava sparkling wines, not only helped with the research of these books by allowing them to use their expertise and research but they also took on the cost to translate volumes I and II of the Bullipedia Wine Sapiens collection so they could be available in English.
Freeing The Mind
The woman was surprised when she sat in the dining room as it was comfortable, warm and inviting, as if she had been transported to a hacienda home of a local family tucked away in a remote cove on the Costa Brava in the Spanish region of Catalonia. In a few moments, over 30 dishes would be presented to her throughout the meal and she tried to take deep breaths to subdue her nerves, which intensified with each passing second. It was exhilarating and terrifying simultaneously, as if standing at the edge of a cliff where she was ready to take that leap of faith and give herself over entirely to the journey about to start.
The first presented creation triggered the fear she had recently felt from previous sleepless nights, as it didn’t look like anything she had eaten before. Even though many called this the best gastronomic experience of their lives, others had said that they felt quickly sick by an overwhelming panic and had to stop the journey of a parade of creations, destroying the dream that they, too, would have the experience of a lifetime. But those fears that kept her in her comfort zone for most of her adult life, that were part of a slow downward spiral that started to dull her excitement and joy for living as there seemed to be nothing else to discover, were not going to stop her this time. She cleared her mind and picked up the creation that expressed itself not only by its unique color and shape but also by how it was placed on a tiny plate with waves sculpted into it, making her pick up the creation as intended. Then, after she put it in her mouth, the smell in her head, the taste, the texture and the still prevalent imprint of the visual impression all came together to give her one of the most precious things that had been taken away too early in life. She had become a child again, eating something for the first time that instantly formed many connections in her brain, giving her a tidal wave of joy and happiness that brought her back to a place in development that she could no longer remember.
That is what eating at the El Bulli restaurant did for some, while others decided not to jump off the cliff. This is what the Wine Sapiens collection also intends to accomplish: to free one’s mind so she can tap into that pure happiness of discovery that was lost long ago.
***Link to original Forbes article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cathrinetodd/2023/12/15/wine-books-released-by-most-influential-chef-who-led-best-restaurant-in-the-world/
2016 Juvé & Camps, Gran Reserva Cava, Catalonia, Spain: Blend of Xarel·lo, Macabeo, Chardonnay and Parellada. Such a beautiful minerality from this Cava from the first sip with juicy white peach flavors enhanced by lemon peel brightness with a touch of complex aromas of spiced toast and almond cookies with an impressive overall balance of richness, acidity and delicate texture created by the finesse of the tiny bubbles caressing the palate.