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Famed chef offers up wine to finance next big project

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Food-lovers who miss dining at the tables of Ferran Adria's elBulli restaurant can get another taste on Friday -- of his wine, at least, as the famed Catalan chef auctions his celebrated collection.

The sale, at upscale Sotheby's auction house in New York, will benefit Adria's foundation, where, two years after the legendary Spanish restaurant shut its doors, Adria, considered one of the best experimental chefs, now works full-time.

"It's crazy, I'm working harder than ever," Adria said of the foundation, which he described as "a little Cirque de Soleil, a little Dali museum, a little medialab."

Adria, who joined the kitchen staff of elBulli in 1984, has since the late 1990s rocked the world of gastronomy by using science to "deconstruct" and rebuild food in what has been termed "molecular cuisine".

His foundation, set to open in 2015 on the site of the restaurant in Cala Montjoi, north of Barcelona, will host a large "experimental center. We want people to understand what avant-garde cuisine is," he explained.

At Friday's sale wine-lovers will be able to buy thousands of bottles, collected over the years by Adria, whose restaurant was ranked Britain's Restaurant Magazine's best restaurant in the world a record five times.

This is the second auction of Adria's cellar: in Hong Kong on April 3, a first round brought in around $2 million.

Also on offer Friday are two kitchen jackets used and signed by the chef, menus, wine lists, dishes and other kitchen utensils.

And bidders can also bid on a dinner for four with Adria, in his new Barcelona restaurant, Tickets. A similar lot at the Hong Kong auction earlier in the month went for more than $28,000.

"All the money will go to the elBulli Foundation," said the chef, who is enthusiastically traveling the world for his new project.

-- "Joy and Innovation" --

Adria estimates it will take five million euros ($6.5 million) to get the elBulli foundation running, and another two million euros ($2.6 million) a year to keep it going.

A 40-strong "creative team" will work there on new "ideas, concepts and techniques," he said. And all of it, he explained, will be posted on the Internet daily, "for all the cooks in the world."

He would be happy to welcome 200,000 visitors a year, he said, but predicted "there will be many more."

One month a year, Adria and his team will serve his creations to, in particular, some 50 "members" helping to finance the project.

The renowned chef also speaks enthusiastically of his "Bullipedia" project -- a huge database on food and cooking that aims to provide, "in an orderly manner," he insists, "everything people dream about, on the Internet."

Research for the database started a year ago and has taken his team back to the very earliest cookbooks.

Adria marvels that food has, in recent years, become "the most important social network. Facebook isn't the most important social network, it's food. And why? Because food is pure joy."

In the two years since he closed the Michelin three-star elBulli restaurant, he says he's never worked so hard.

"We have three exhibits around the world, a film in production in Hollywood, and we are currently very focused on the conceptual and architectural design for the foundation," he said.

A book is also in the works, "4,000 pages long," he said.

He speaks of "joy and innovation," and of the importance of interdisciplinary work in today's world.

Yet, despite the grueling schedule -- Adria spoke between two museum visits in New York -- he is savoring the freedom he associates with his future foundation.

"We are going to be able to do what we want. There won't be any chasing the Michelin's three stars, no prize to win. It's creativity for creativity's sake," he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130426/famed-chef-offers-wine-finance-next-big-project