I had written the following over the weekend in response to the original New York times story saying that elBulli would not re-open as a restaurant after the 2011 season. Since then, Ferran Adria has clarified his position and following that,the Times has clarified theirs. Whether the restaurant re-opens in some limited capacity or not, it will undoubtedly be different than it currently is, with an even greater emphasis on exploration, education and training than it currently has, as hard as that may be to imagine since elBulli already does more in those regards than probably any other restaurant in history. I beleive the sentiment expressed below still applies.
In so far as I know, there will still be at least two more seasons. Along with everyone else, I was expecting the restaurant to re-open as a restaurant once again in 2014, but, while I am profoundly saddened that such a glorious and wonderful era will come to an end, I can't say that I'm surprised at Ferran Adria's announcement that elBulli will not be re-opened as a restaurant after they close following the 2011 season. Sure, once they close I will miss the opportunity to dine again as I have at the restaurant that has so far provided me with the two greatest meals of my life, but at least I have had the opportunity to experience Adria's genius and generosity. I feel bad that others won't have the possibility of experiencing it, at least not directly or in the form in which it has so far existed.
I'm not surprised that the restaurant is closing, because what else does Ferran Adria and his staff have to or even can they prove by re-opening it? Expectations would be iPad like and nearly impossible to live up to, no matter how great the product (though if anyone could, it would be Ferran Adria). I imagine the scene over these last two seasons will be much like an all-time great athlete or a legendary musician on a farewell tour prior to retirement.
However, the saving grace, is that Ferran Adria is not actually retiring. The restaurant may not exist as it has anymore, but the influence of elBulli will still be exerted where perhaps it most matters - the education and inspiration of chefs, who can spread the Gospel according to Ferran much farther and wider than the restaurant itself ever could. That Adria and company will basically devote themselves to teaching and exploring, if I understand what is happening correctly, eases my disappointment and profound sadness at the loss of this wonderful dining establishment. Adria is a great teacher and has lots to teach. The setting of elBulli in Cala Montjoi is a magical one for the restaurant. It should be an equally magical one for the academy he is planning, too. So, rather than bemoan the loss of this great restaurant, I am excited to see what will come from it. I expect great things... and with some luck may yet be able to experience the genius of Ferran Adria again.