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Albert Adrià on His Barcelona 'Culinary Amusement Park'

Five new concepts are on-tap for the groundbreaking chef.

Photo: Moises Torne

Chef Albert Adrià is on fire. He and his brother Ferran Adrià will conclude their 5.0 project in January 2015 with the Barcelona opening of Enigma. The purest version of Albert Adrià's vision, 5.0 consists of five restaurants, five completely new culinary concepts, five partners, and one creative chef with one clear objective: to develop the first culinary amusement park in the world, located in the center of Barcelona. Along with the three owners of the legendary marisqueria (seafood restaurant) Rías de Galicia — Juan Carlos, Borja and Pedro Iglesias — this amusement park will be composed of the following concepts:

1. Tickets, a modern tapas bar.
2. Bodega 1900, a bar designed especially to enjoy vermut, one of the most popular culinary traditions in Spain.
3. Pakta, the one and only Japanese and Peruvian (Nikkei) restaurant in Barcelona.
4. Hoja Santa and Niño Viejo, a Mexican haute cuisine (Hoja Santa) and tacos place (Niño Viejo) which was originally conceptualized as Yauarcan.
5. Enigma, which will include a reincarnated 41º Experience, a cocktail bar, and a more-than-exclusive tasting menu restaurant.

Together, these five concepts will form a map of the must-visit places in Barcelona for food lovers and elBulli nostalgics. And, by the beginning of next year, Adrià will be ready to go on to some very special and exclusive international projects: the Dominican Republic and Ibiza are on his agenda for the next few years. Here now, Adrià explains it all:

Now you have Tickets (1 Michelin star since November 2013), 41º (1 Michelin star since November 2013), Bodega 1900, and Pakta, what's next and when will it be ready to go?

We have realized we need more space in Tickets to attend to the demand.

In May, we are opening Niño Viejo, specializing in tacos and botanas (Mexican snacks or appetizers). We forecast we will have 200 people per day, with no reservation, and people will eat for 30-40 euros per person. Right after, at the end of August, I am closing 41º to move it to Enigma, in a new location. We will also work to improve and make a bigger Tickets. We have realized we need more space in Tickets to be able to attend to the demand. We will be able to receive 130 people daily (five days a week) and even 240 to 300 people on the weekend, with an average price of 80 euros per person.

In September, while working on the new Tickets, we will be opening our new Mexican restaurant, named Hoja Santa (sacred leaf) after the heart-shaped leaf that is often used to prepare tamales and green mole in Mexico. This will be a haute cuisine Mexican restaurant, directed in the kitchen by Mexican chef Paco Méndez, and will have a capacity for 70 people spending an average ticket of 80-100 euros per person.

Enigma will hopefully be born in January 2015, a new concept for a cocktail bar (similar to the original 41º Experience). Inside Enigma, people sitting down at 41º will be able to enjoy a really special tasting menu in which they will feel closer than ever to the already–closed elBulli. There will be 19 staff members for 16 guests at 200 euros each, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In the cocktail bar, we hope we will receive around 200 people daily. To achieve that, I will be doing my best to create a concept capable of attracting tourists.

[Photo: Moises Torne]

In both Enigma and the Mexican restaurant, you are creating a double concept: one with no reservations, with a lower and affordable price, and another one more exclusive. Why do you do it this way?
After the experience gained over the last years and projects, I have realized that sometimes to be able to offer the special concept you want, such as 41º or Hoja Santa, you need to have a big machine behind the scenes making the money to make it happen. In Enigma and Niño Viejo, all the visitors coming every day with no reservation will be like a present, and they will allow us to make what we want in 41º and Hoja Santa.

Why have you been opening all five restaurants in such a short amount of time, since January 2011?
The project has been growing freely in my mind since the very beginning. Actually, I am just taking advantage of the synergies and the best proposals I have been receiving. I realized that it was the same as creating a new family. If you are planning to have five children, it is better to have them as quickly as possible, to be a young and active mother, and still be young when your children are teenagers. I am signing contracts with partners for 20 years. I would like to be able to feel free and enjoy my own time when I am around 64 years old.

After completing my 5.0., I am planning to open a maximum of two or three more international projects: a beach club in the Dominican Republic, and a restaurant and night club in Ibiza. I get many offers from abroad, but I need to be here, close to all my restaurants. You can never say never, but I am planning to stop one day and become free. To be able to do that and still maintain the soul in all my restaurants, I have to work very hard now, be here daily, let my team know I am here and encourage them to make it better every day.

What's the final goal for this 5.0 project?

I would like to design a map in the center of Barcelona in which you can see all the five restaurants.

I would like to design a map in the center of Barcelona in which you can see all the five restaurants, offering very different concepts and menus. I want people to realize visiting each restaurant is a completely new experience every time. The map would be like a culinary amusement park map, with very different attractions which just share the name of the chef and the aim of improving constantly. We have some clients who visit for two to three days and they go to different restaurants [in our group], but I would like this to happen more often in the future. I think I still need four or five years to achieve this.

When the project is complete, I will try to find a very professional team who will take care of the management for all the restaurants. This way, I will be able to do just what I really love, which is cooking.

Tickets. [Photo: Official Site]; Adrià. [Photo: Moises Torne]

Recently you mentioned in the Financial Review that the high gastronomy formula doesn't work now. What did you mean exactly?
I meant this formula is not working nowadays, at least in Barcelona. This is just an impression, but I feel people don't care much nowadays about high gastronomy. For lunch, people feel guilty if they spend three hours or more eating in a restaurant, however they feel much more comfortable paying the same amount of money in a more casual restaurant in which the menu is part of the fun.

When I say the high gastronomy concept is not working, I am speaking about all the elements included in the classical idea for high gastronomy: the elegance of the ambience, the cold and distant interaction with the server and so on. All the new restaurants opening now in Barcelona are looking for this new concept, far away from the classic high gastronomy.

Actually, we even eliminated the tasting menu option in Tickets.

There are many formulas that can work, but you have to have a clear idea of what you want and you can offer. If you want to offer a tasting menu, you have to do it really well because it is not only about the money, you are asking to your guests to spend a long time in your restaurant. You are forced to make it an unforgettable experience. You need a great culinary background to make your proposal worth it. Actually, we even eliminated the tasting menu option in Tickets.

In my case, I would like to say I am trying to offer good cuisine, not high gastronomy, in all my restaurants.

How do you see yourself within the five-to-ten-year time?
I hope I will be alive! I really hope people won't say: "You were wrong, you made a mistake." I just hope people will tell me that I look good and that the dream I am living now will never become a nightmare.

· All Albert Adrià Coverage on Eater [-E-]
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