Ferran Adria: The Entrepreneuring Chef

For our featured leader of the week, we bring you – Ferran Adria, a world renown Spanish cook. So, how does a culinarian mesh as a Leader?


Well, remember? Anything organized merits leadership, so does anything that offers products or services to others. It’s all just a matter of how well one understands its mechanics. If you initiate or even facilitate then there’s leadership in you.

As for Adria who came to fame when elBulli was cited as the World’s Best Restaurant for four straight years (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009) by the Restaurant Magazine, he has headed the restaurant until its closure in 2011.

Wait. The world’s best restaurant, closing at its height? You may even wonder if something’s wrong with him. Yet, there’s just basically two things to ponder here.

First, if you look at elBulli’s operations, they are only open every mid-June to mid-December taking in just 8,000 diners a season. Hey, people eats everyday, why operate for just six months a year? Food is not seasonal unless the restaurant specializes in seasonal ingredients only, now why close down?

Second, elBulli had actually operated at a loss for six years. And with their operating principles, at the surface, no wonder.

Wow, if you stop here, you may say that Adria is no good in business and even temperamental as an entrepreneur. But as Adria put it – “the ideal customer doesn’t come to elBulli to eat but to have an experience”.

In short, Ferran Adria does not really synthesize breakthroughs with profits. Breakthroughs in terms of new recipes that is; as he uses the other half of the year to perfect his dishes and discover new ones at El Taller, the restaurant’s gastronomic laboratory. Now, it’s the El Bulli Foundation – the center for innovation in alignment with digital technology.

So we see, elBulli was just a platform, a launching pad – Adria’s real earnings would come from sponsors and partners aside from the books and lectures that he does.

For good entrepreneurs and leaders, this is one step backwards, three steps forward. Look? Not only would elBulli reopen as a creativity center come 2014; he’s even got project BulliPedia, the world’s first culinary wiki, coming to full completion by the end of 2014. More so, more opportunities and a greater legacy. So, did he make the wrong move in closing the restaurant?

What’s your take?


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