Next Restaurant

29 Course el Bulli Tasting Menu

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


Chef Grant Achatz tribute to Chef Ferran Adria - NEXT elBulli

By Jane Tracy, Bailli de Chicago

Two of the planet’s avant garde chefs – Ferran Adria and Grant Achatz - pooled their intellect in a conversation in Chicago last year and spoke of inspiration, about the transmission of knowledge to others, and how the workplace for chefs has shifted and progressed. It would seem that the process of transformation that breaks frontiers - due to a pioneering spirit that refuses to cower to conformist demands - offers up new experiences to the diner.

The Chicago Chapter, for the second time, secured an exclusive opportunity to experience a private dining evening at NEXT for the 29 course elBulli menu.  Chef Achatz and his team had worked with chefs and managers flown in from Catalonia’s El Bulli to create NEXT’s own unique homage to Chef Adria’s culinary shrine. 

We had witnessed the frenzy of the world as tickets went on sale making it the most sought after dining experience with aficionados clamoring from all corners of the globe.  Our cerebral tasting lasted four hours.  Seating for 62 diners was staggered in fifteen minute intervals, and we watched and tasted and paired wines as a delicate ballet unfurled before us.  An industrial engineering precision had been sequenced as six groups of ten diners were served with care, class and humor.

The geography of the menu spanned dishes created by Adria from 1991 to 2010 and were uniquely re-created by NEXT.  They were not served in chronological order but in a seemingly random way, which included the controversial 1997 smoke foam.  There was the occasional recognizable composition such as the 1998 Suquet of Prawns but the menu was decidedly something that no highly accomplished “amateur” chef could realistically produce at home.  The 2009 gorgonzola globe was placed in the center of the table and we broke pieces off with our fingers.  It looked and felt like a white chocolate sphere but that tasted of blue cheese epitomizing the architecture and transformation of food on the plate!

Certain wines spanned several courses and at a pertinent point in the menu, the kitchen stopped entirely and NEXT co-owner Nick Kokonas was able to talk about NEXT’s first year and introduced Executive Chef Dave Beran, Sous Chef Rene Deleon and their amazing team.  Their pedigrees were impressive and they told us of the elBulli experience.  The kitchen then re-opened and we continued on with the remaining fourteen courses or so…  Quite an experience!  Quite a night! 

Gastronomic literacy in its progressive form is all about radicalism, art and science.  If a chef is willing to mysteriously beckon and beguile the diner into a new realm, where tasting and eating blend in a subtle way, the result is that the series of dishes become an artistic conduit provoking reaction and analysis that just also happens to conveniently satisfy the body’s need to refuel itself.


The Chicago Chapter of the Confrérie de la Chaine des Rôtisseurs has another wonderful opportunity to experience what is probably one of the most sought after dining experiences in the world.

• WHEN? Tuesday 3 April 2012

• WHERE? NEXT – 953 West Fulton Market, Chicago.

• WHAT? Chef Grant Achatz’s el Bulli 29-course menu with reserve wine pairings

• Executive Chef Dave Beran will lead his team and will undoubtedly ensure that this Chaîne-Chicago evening will once again go down in the annals of one of memorable proportions.

• Waiting area will be in The Aviary. You will be individually advised of your arrival time.

• We will be paying in advance and will run all credit cards and cash checks immediately on receipt of your reservation.

My thanks go to Chevalier Michael Belsley who, for the second time, has worked closely with me and acted as an important conduit in the delicate steps needed to secure this opportunity.