NEW YORK - Ferran Adrià, internationally revered chef of elBulli restaurant on the Costa Brava in Spain, has garnered countless accolades and been named the best chef in the world several years running. He began his career in a hotel kitchen washing dishes in order to raise money for a trip to Ibiza. By age 22, he had been appointed as head chef of the remote and unpretentious shore side restaurant. In a matter of years, elBulli would become the most sought after dinner destination in the world. As the restaurant gathered Michelin stars and worldwide recognition, the cellar grew accordingly under the aegis of his partner and head sommelier Juli Soler. In January 2010, following two decades of constant success, Adrià and Soler announced that the restaurant would close in July 2011, to the shock and consternation of many. In 2014, elBulli will reopen its doors in a new guise as an innovative culinary research center. In order to finance this new venture and secure its future, the treasured contents of the cellar are being offered at auction in Hong Kong and New York in April.
Where were you born?
In L'Hospitalet de Llobregat on the street that separates it from Barcelona, so I feel very much from Barcelona.
What was your best memory growing up?
I had a very normal childhood. My best memories are of playing football with friends.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Where/what did you study?
I was doing business studies, but a year before finishing I tired of it, gave it up and found a job washing dishes. I wasn't a bad student, and in many ways all the training I had has helped me out as a businessman. I like numbers. I believe that creativity and innovation are fantastic when you have freedom, and to have that freedom you need to have economic freedom.
Any formal wine training?
No. What I know I owe to my business partner Juli Soler, it was his passion and he was the expert in wines at elBulli. This cellar was built up by him and all the sommeliers at elBulli. Juli was, above all, a great friend of the leading winemakers in the world and every year would travel to Bordeaux, Burgundy, and throughout Spain. Of course, because of elBulli he had a great business rapport with the finest vineyards, but above all he was a friend. When it comes to me, my training in wine comes from drinking it. I'm particularly keen on champagne and the great wines, obviously.
Who was your mentor?
None, I did not have a mentor, and this has been fundamental in my career. I have not had a master. I have learned from a lot of people, and there are important people of reference, but I did not work alongside a master for four or five years, because otherwise it would have been impossible to do what we did. If you study with someone, you will be marked. As a reference, I studied fine French cuisine, as well as traditional Spanish and my mother's cooking.
What was the best advice you ever received?
That what really matters is what you do, not who you are.
Outside wine, what is your passion?
The Barcelona football team. More as a release valve than anything else. When I am watching the Barça, I forget about everything else. With all due respect, if other teams are playing, I am just not interested.
Early to rise, late to bed; burn the candle at both ends?
Well, since the restaurant closed, my biorhythms have changed. I get up later and do not have to stay up until two in the morning.
What are you reading now?
I read very little, because I write so much. For Bullipedia, I am reading tomes about the history of cooking. I read the papers online every day, and I love the Sunday newspapers.
Favorite local restaurant?
Tickets, I feel like I'm at home there. My brother runs it.
Favorite restaurant in the world?
Mibu in Tokyo.
Favourite wine from your cellar?
Favourite wine that was not in elBulli cellar?
What? We had the lot!
Which wine from your cellar are you most sorry to let go?
None! I am delighted to see them all go because they are going to make it possible for elBulli to remain forever. I hope that those who bid for the wines feel that aside from getting hold of good wine they are also contributing to the Foundation that will guarantee the future of elBulli.
Favorite shop to buy clothes?
El Groc by Toni Miró.
If you can choose your perfect last supper before leaving this world, what would it be, who would it be with and what would you drink with it?
I can't answer that question!
Ok, if you could think of your ultimate dinner, what would it be like?
This is hypothetical, of course. I would have dinner with Picasso. You know, I've read that he wasn't a very foody person. I would make dishes with the wonderful produce from his native Andalousia and have some delicious sherry...