Last week, after nearly four years out of the spotlight, former El Bulli chef Ferran Adrià offered international guests a glimpse inside his ElBulli Foundation, a unique culinary lab where the legendary cook likes to say he is “feeding creativity” and “eating knowledge.” Located in a former textile factory in Barcelona, the all-white space is raw and divided by of a series of makeshift wooden hallways, the walls of which are covered in hand-written notes, computer-generated diagrams, and other miscellaneous evidence of the practice of Adrià’s “neo-methodology” called Sapiens. (“It is both simple and complex at the same time,” he explains.) Glossy magazines singing the chef’s praise hang from the ceiling via binder clips and string. In a special corner of the lab, a shiny gold material replaces the white wood, and corks and wine bottles adorn desks. Hand-written posters around the room pose questions like, “What does creativity stand for in Dom Pérignon?” and “I open a Dom Pérignon because…?” while rows of post-its list descriptions like “magic,” “luxury,” and “identity.” This is the Dom Pérignon lab, the lab within a lab where, for the next three years Adrià’s team will apply their sapiens method to Dom Pérignon champagne. “The project is really to work on our future,” explains Dom Pérignon’s Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy, noting the brand’s legacy and innovative collaborations with artists like Jeff Koons and David Lynch. “To keep reinventing ourselves, to keep progressing, to keep growing forever. We feel that’s the only way now to break through, to work a bit out of the conventional box, and to understand that the answers to the future of Dom Pérignon don’t lie in the world of wine.”
Fittingly, the celebration of the intangible, yet intriguing project was equally complex. Titled “This Is Not a Dinner,” guests from around the world gathered in Barcelona’s Palo Alto Market to fete the collaboration—and to witness the first time Adria would wear his chef’s uniform since El Bulli closed in 2011. (“It’s the first time that we as a team have cooked in four years, but we never say we stopped,” he said.) As the evening also marked the debut of Dom Pérignon Vintage 2005, guests began their experience with a private tasting of the vintage, then moved to tables where they dined on 29 courses of “luxury snacks” like Tomato and Olive Oil Airbags, Fried Rabbit Ears, and Adrià’s signature liquid olives—all of which were designed to pair with Dom Pérignon Vintages.
As the evening wound down, the crowd couldn’t help but be fascinated by what exactly the end result of the three-year research project would be. Luckily, with the “snacks” they enjoyed at the non-dinner available at the likes of Le Bernardin, Daniel, and the restaurant at the NoMad come May, they’ll have plenty to chew on in the meantime.