Ferran Adria visits Boston

What’s next for a chef who’s already got three Michelin stars and worldwide fame? “The important thing is to work,” said Ferran Adria, who closed his famed El Bulli restaurant last summer. “You’ve got to keep working.”

While many have lamented the end of El Bulli, a hotbed of molecular gastronomy, Adria is looking ahead, and breathing a sigh of relief.

“I was so fed up with people asking me for a table,” he said of the restaurant, which had more than a million reservation requests every year. “It was horrible.”

Adria was in Boston today to publicize his next venture: the el Bulli Foundation Global Ideas Challenge Competition that he’s launching in partnership with Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica.

“A cook representing a telecommunications company sounds crazy,” he said. “But think about it. You work nine or ten hours a day, you sleep eight hours. That leaves six hours free. During that time, what are you doing? You’re either eating, or on the computer, or the phone. So, you see, they complement each other well.”

Adria will spend the next two years establishing the el Bulli Foundation, a center of creativity and innovation for chefs, philosophers, artists, and researchers. Situated not far from the original El Bulli in Cap de Creus National Park on Spain’s Costa Brava, the Foundation’s goal is simple: the generation and diffusion of ideas. To help accomplish this, Adria is reaching out to students at five top business schools, and challenging them to come up with a plan to more fully conceptualize the Foundation from the ground up. Student teams will compete to define everything from its business identity to fundraising strategy to communication channels to organizational structure to attracting talent to measuring success. The winners get an all expense paid trip to the Foundation, and 10,000 euros.

“This is a creativity center,” he said during his visit to Harvard Business School. “Not just gastronomy.”

Registration for the competition opens Sunday. In addition to HBS, Adria will be reaching out to students at Columbia Business School, the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, London Business School, and ESADE Business School in Barcelona.

“These are the best,” Adria said.

In a time when actresses are becoming chefs, chefs are becoming social activists and everyone is a critic, it was sort of refreshing to hear Adria speak. He wants nothing more than to foster creativity in an environment where “the language is cooking.”

The el Bulli Foundation won’t have a social mission per se. “I can’t end hunger,” he said. “If there is hunger it’s because politicians let there be hunger. In life, you must know your limitations. I am a chef.”

And while the el Bulli Foundation seeks to spread creativity and ideas across the globe, Adria says he personally won’t be embracing social media like his friend Chef Jose Andres.

“In social media, you have to be honest,” he said. “You can’t have someone else doing it, writing your tweets. I can’t do it. Jose Andres is crazy, he can do everything. I can’t. It would be impossible. For people like me, they have to invent something else.”

In a Foundation run partly by a telecommunications company and populated with some of the world’s most creative minds, its hard to believe they won’t.


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