It is very difficult to be innovative at the highest level in any discipline. For some chefs, it’s simply a matter of combining ingredients, but that’s something you can do with your eyes closed.
Ferran Adrià Acosta was born in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, a province of Barcelona, Spain. He lived with his parents, Ginès, a plasterer, and Josefa, a housewife, and his brother Albert. He completed his basic education at Escola Casal dels Àngels in his home town and at Colegio de San Isidro, in the city of Barcelona. His passion was football, and he played for the Juventud de L’Hospitalet club until 1974 and Santa Eulàlia F.C. until 1980.
He had no interest at all in cooking during this period, which was typical for a boy of his age.
In 1977, he enrolled at the Institut Mare de Déu de la Mercè, a college where he took a business course, a requisite that would enable him to take a degree in business administration at university.
For no particular reason, he abandoned his studies in 1980. Intending to earn money to pay for a holiday in Ibiza, he began his culinary career by chance when he took his first modest step by working as a dishwasher at Hotel Playafels, in Castelldefels, near L’Hospitalet.
Miquel Moy, the chef at the hotel restaurant and one of his father’s close friends, taught Ferran the basic culinary techniques. After a few months, now in 1981, he found work at Club Cala Leña, in Es Canà, Ibiza. He returned to Barcelona a few months later and took on different jobs in establishments such as El Suquet, Castell Arnau and Martinica. In 1982, he joined the prestigious Finisterre restaurant, where he remained until he was called up for military service on 2 July 1982.
From mid-1982 until late 1983, Ferran was stationed at the naval base in Cartagena, where he joined the admiral’s kitchen team and was later made head of the kitchen, giving him his first experience of responsibility. Taking the advice of a fellow Catalan recruit, who had been working at elBulli, he spent his month’s leave in the summer of 1983 at the Cala Montjoi restaurant. Afterwards, Ferran agreed to join the restaurant’s staff once he had completed his military service.
After finishing his military service, Ferran worked from January to March 1984 at the San Marcos restaurant in Seville, and then joined the staff at elBulli in April 1984 as a chef de partie. With the departure of the head chef Jean-Paul Vinay, Ferran and Christian Lutaud were appointed joint head chefs by the manager, Juli Soler, on 1 November. Juli Soler encouraged Ferran to travel around France to learn about the world of fine-dining restaurants. He did internships in kitchens run by Georges Blanc and Jacques Pic. In October 1986, with the departure of Christian Lutaud, he became elBulli’s sole head chef.
From 1987, Ferran abandoned nouvelle cuisine-style dishes and pursued his own way of understanding cuisine. He began by using local ingredients, techniques and elaborations, and he gave them a new perspective from the point of view of haute cuisine. Until 1993, this ‘Mediterranean style’ defined elBulli cuisine, a style that would later become influential in the Catalan and Spanish cuisine of the time.
In 1990, elBulli S.L. was founded by partners Juli Soler and Ferran Adrià, which developed different lines and models of business.
elBulli S.L. would reinvest 20 per cent of its turnover in innovation. In fact, elBullirestaurante operated as the R&D department of a consultancy firm that offered services to the food and restaurant industry, but its commitment to innovation was always given priority over business. This model has allowed elBulli to maintain its radical nature.
In the early 1990s, a change took place in the cuisine offered by Ferran and elBullirestaurante. The ‘Mediterranean’ dishes were joined by a series of new concepts, elaborations, techniques and service formats, paving the way for the change that would take place in 1994. From then on, there would always be a series of elements that characterise the elBulli style.
In late 1987, Ferran and Juli divided the restaurant’s season into two parts: there would be six months of restaurant service and six months when the restaurant would be closed.
In the second half of the 1990s, there was a search for the ideal formula to set up a workshop, the first in the history of gastronomy. After trying out several locations, elBullitaller was established in Barcelona’s Carrer Portaferrisa in 2000. It was here that a model of innovation was established and gradually refined. During the six months when Barcelona was closed, rather than create a dish based on one idea, hundreds of ideas, concepts, techniques and elaborations would be considered, resulting in finished dishes and menus during the six months at elBulli. Moreover, all the variables and resources of the process were subjected to a creative audit that would provide a high level of efficiency and effectiveness. Ultimately, this would be the determining factor for elBulli’s creative longevity.
Ferran married Isabel Pérez in 2002. The couple have no children.
elBullirestaurante closed to become elBullifoundation.
The sad news of Juli Soler’s uncurable illness forced a rethink of the project created by the Soler-Adrià partnership.
Without the invaluable assistance provided by Juli, Ferran would take on the consultancy work and image projects alone. At the same time, elBullifoundation launched its knowledge and innovation projects.
This date marks the founding of elBullifoundation, a private, family-based foundation led by Ferran Adrià and Juli Soler.
The Galaxy is the business model of Juli Soler, Ferran Adrià and Albert Adrià concerning elBullirestaurante. In 1998, a key decision was taken as to how the business model should be, making a conceptual change based on the following premise: keeping elBullirestaurante at the cutting-edge. To give us the necessary freedom to do this, a business model for elBullirestaurante was created, based on consultancy and image work, and the formation of our own business lines.
1997 – Collaboration with the creative team of Chocovic in ventures related to chocolate.
1999 – R & D, and creation of vinaigrettes, sauces and aromatic olive oils in partnership with Borges
2000 – Study and creation of soups and dairy products for Kaiku, together with Juan Mari Arzak, Karlos Arguiñano and Pedro Subijana.
2001 – Collaboration with Caprabo in several publishing and consultancy projects.
2002 – Collaboration with Lavazza, for the creation of products and concepts related to coffee.
2004 – Innovations in the world of cocktails, with Diageo
2005 – Texturas, a line of products selected by elBullitaller, to bring new elaborations to the kitchen.
2005 – Working on new creations in chocolate with the architect Jean Nouvel and the team of Cailler, a company in the Nestlé group.
2005 – A new range of potato crisps, and other ideas for aperitif concepts in collaboration with the R & D department of Frito Lays, of the Pepsico company.
2007 – R & D in fruit juices and cookies, with United Biscuits.
2008 – Creation of Inedit, in collaboration with the team of Damm master brewers. A ground-breaking new line of beer that, for its elegance and ability to accompany the great variety of flavours existing in modern gastronomy, offers an alternative to wine.
1986 – ElBulli Bistrot opens in the Pasarela nightclub in Empuriabrava (Roses).
1989 – Consultancy work for Bel-Air, Chévere, Network and Samoa restaurants (Barcelona), along with Can Bosch (Cambrils).
1990 – Consultancy work for Reina de España restaurant (Puerto Rico).
1992 – Consultancy work for the Bernat II Hotel (Calella).
1993 – The Ñam-Ñam self-service restaurant opens at the same time as Dim-Sum, a European dim-sum concept restaurant. Both at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) in Barcelona.
1993 – A collaboration with Semon begins, which lasts one year.
1994 – Mas Pau restaurant opens, in Avinyonet de Puigventós (Figueres), run by Xavier Sagristà and Toni Gerez.
1995 – ElBullicatering is born, in which the cuisine, philosophy and service of elBulli is transferred to the world of catering.
1999 – Creation of elBullihotel, whose first project is the Hacienda Benazuza hotel, where consultancy work is also undertaken for the gastronomic offer of the hotel.
2001 – Commencing a collaboration with NH Hoteles, which bears fruit with two projects: Nhube and Fast Good.
2010 – Tickets. In collaboration with Albert Adrià; a re-imagining of the concept of contemporary tapas.
From 2011 on…
2015 – Heart Ibiza. In collaboration with Albert Adrià and the founder of Cirque du Soleil; a multidisciplinary project which allows us to explore the limits of what a restaurant is.
1998 –With ICC company, state-of-the-art kitchen utensils and appliances, including the siphon, are manufactured and commercialised.
2001 – Creation of Ola dishware with designer Gemma Bernal, produced by CIM, which became a success in the restaurant business.
2004 – Agreement with Armand Basi to create tablecloths and textile tableware products related to the world of cooking.
2004 – Creation of Faces, producing cutlery, kitchenware and utensils for table service, in a joint collaboration with some great names in Spanish design.
More than 15,000 pages of content
More than 8,000 images
6 CDs with 1,846 recipes
2009 – General Audio-visual Catalogue in 9 episodes, in collaboration with Televisión Española
2009 – A Day at elBulli
2011 – Documenting Documenta
In close collaboration
2009 – elBulli – Cooking in progress
2011 – elBulli, Last Waltz
…in addition to a large number of documentaries broadcasted on television channels throughout the world.