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Is the Best Restaurant in the World Closing?

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Yes, it’s true. For those of you who haven’t heard, El Bulli—chef and molecular gastronomist Ferran Adria’s inimitable restaurant on Spain’s Costa Brava, considered by many to be the finest in the world—is closing. This summer season, which begins on June 15th, will be its second-to-last.

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As a restaurante, that is. Despite rumors that the place was gone for good, a press release has confirmed that El Bulli will indeed close in 2012—but reopen in 2014 as a culinary foundation. The not-for-profit institute will serve as a “think tank for creativity in gastronomy,” offering 20 to 25 yearlong fellowships for chefs to experiment in Adria’s famous taller, and compiling an exhaustive encyclopedia on contemporary cooking.

Adria, meanwhile, will try out his talents on a different dining public: the students Harvard University. He has signed on to teach a fall 2010 undergraduate course in culinary physics.

El Bulli’s conversion (and its owner’s sudden academic turn) may have originated as much in financial necessity as in the desire to keep pushing culinary boundaries. A few days ago, in a Spanish-press-heavy luncheon for Barcelona government officials, Adria admitted that the restaurant was losing “half a million Euros” a year. “I’m not a millionaire,” the chef added.

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It’s always been tricky—really, really tricky—to get reservations at El Bulli (the waitlist for next summer, for example, is 3,000 names). Now, despite Adria’s promises that “food will be served at El Bulli in some form” after 2014, our chances to sample his pioneering molecular gastronomy seem slimmer than ever.

Fortunately, T+L’s food editor, Niloufar Motamed, managed to sneak in a six-hour, 35-course meal at El Bulli last year. Check out her detailed and wonderfully photographed account of the experience here. May it suffice until 2014!

Catesby Holmes is an assistant editor at Travel + Leisure.

Photos courtesy of Peter Jon Lindberg

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