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Albert Adrià: Pop-ups Give us More Freedom to Test Reality

20 September, 2021
Albert Adrià

Photo by: Courtesy of Albert Adrià

The Catalan chef also disclosed his plans to continue his legacy in his hometown: Enigma, one of his most awarded restaurants, is set to reopen in March, for approximately eight months. 

After this period, he must close again for an even bigger task: helping his older brother Ferran Adrià to serve the first guests to have the unique opportunity to eat at elBulli 1846, the famous building in the mythical Cala Montjoi, which will host exclusive groups for gastronomic experiences where the most influential restaurant of the century once operated. 

For now, the chef is focused on the challenge of creating a menu that can make a difference in another address that can go down in history, this time in the most gastronomic capital in the world. "For me, it is like a gift after everything we've been through in the pandemic: to be able to restart our journey in Paris, alongside Ducasse, in a project facing the Eiffel Tower. I couldn't ask for more.” 

Read on for the rest of the story in Albert Adrià’s own words. 

On the new restaurant in Paris 

"We [his and Ducasse's team] got together in three different opportunities to discuss ideas and learn more from their philosophy — after all, we are the guests there. We want to do something collaborative, not just two things that go well together. We will have two menus, a shorter one and a longer one. The short menu will encompass 12 courses, and the longer one can reach 15 courses and will have caviar, truffle, lobster, etc. Nothing will be missing. I already have over 3500 recipes, but we're going to create completely new dishes for this project, and they [Ducasse's team] are doing the same. (The chef interrupts the conversation to taste a recipe brought by one of his cooks: an anchovy snack with butter. "It's delicious, but there's still a lot of anchovy,” he says). In two weeks we will meet again in Paris to show the work that each team is doing. Until then, I have no idea what's going to be on the menu, but we're excited about the prospects."

On French cuisine and its influence on his career

"I grew up very close to French cuisine because I used to visit France three or four times every year. My initial training as a cook was in French techniques, so I feel very comfortable in France and French cuisine. We want to work with these references, as in French sauces and other ingredients that have influenced my cooking style. I think right now France is going through an exciting phase absorbing other foreign cuisines. I have seen a lot of things from India and Japan in restaurants. French cuisine has opened up more and more, with many options, with more adaptability. In this sense, if we listen to our guests, we can do very well."

On the internationalisation of his career  

"We first started proper abroad projects in London, with Cakes and Bubbles [a cake shop and sparkling wine bar inside the Hotel Café Royal on Regent Street]. We opened soon after the pandemic hit, but we are already open again, and everything is working very well. We recently opened Little Spain, with our friend José Andrés, in New York, and it became an instant hit. I was there when the pandemic was announced globally, so I returned to Barcelona to initially close my restaurants for two weeks. But we ended up in lockdown for three months, it was crazy. It hasn't been a month since we reopened in the US, and it's been going very well too. Our next goal is Paris, and I hope we can keep the good prognosis without having to face another [lockdown]."

On Barcelona and the post-pandemic future of the city

"Barcelona has characteristics as a very attractive city to a tourist: it offers the best of the Mediterranean in a big city. Blue sky, sea, architecture, and great food. I always say that gastronomy is one of the most beautiful ways to understand a destination. I think Barcelona sometimes chose the path of mass tourism, which seemed wrong to me: we had 13 million visitors in 2019, which is a lot. But of course, my story in Barcelona goes on, now in a different way. It is very complex to explain. In short, the restaurants had different partnerships: Pakta and Tickets were restaurants I used to own with my former partners [the Iglesias brothers], and we had to dissolve the partnership. These projects won't reopen; I mean, I can't reopen them in the same places. But I cannot say that I won't open a Tickets again, maybe in Barcelona, ​​London or Lisbon, one or two years from now. We never know. I passed the Bodega 1900, and chef Paco Mendes will reopen the Mexican restaurant [Hoja Santa], but we don't know when. What we know for sure is that Enigma will reopen: we plan to have it ready for guests at the latest in March 2022."

On pop-ups as the future of restaurants

"Enigma will reopen as a pop-up, trying to balance itself between current and future reality, because we are facing unprecedented times and I understand that things are not going back the same as before. I don't know if we will have 30 people who will be willing to pay 250 euros for dinner next year. But I'm sure I'll find 100 people who’ll pay 80. We thought about opening as a pop-up from March to October, more or less. We are also pending on elBulli. If elBulli reopens as a restaurant, that would be in the fall of next year — between September, October, or November 2022. It will be open for one month. When it opens, we close our Enigma and head to Roses to work there.

ElBulli, it is important to say, will open only for events, to welcome companies that collaborate with the Foundation and guests, it will not be open to the public. For me, the pop-up format gives us more freedom. Also, it allows us to test reality, create formats that adapt to the times, as did René [Redzepi], who pivoted Noma into a hamburger-focused concept until he could finally reopen the restaurant. For example, we have plans to create a cocktail space where you can have dinner, something we had already tested in 2011. It would be a way of keeping things more economically stable after all the experience we achieved with opening nine restaurants. If it works well, we will follow through. Just like what we want to do in Paris: open it and hopefully make it last."

A selection of dishes by Albert Adria

The Story of Albert Adrià and elBarri in 10 Dishes

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