Building on a Strong Foundation

IESE MBAs give form to Ferran Adrià’s new project


IESE and elBullifoundation formally announced their joint venture today at a breakfast held on the school’s Barcelona campus which was catered by renowned pastry chef Cristian Escribà. The first batch of MBA students recently completed their stint working with former elBulli chef Ferran Adrià and his creative team.

Opening the discussion, Associate Dean Eric Weber described the joint venture as "a magnificent example of collaboration between a business school and a company. It is in elBulli’s DNA to be entrepreneurial and innovative."

After it was voted best restaurant in the world three years running, Adrià served the last dinner at elBulli in July 2009 and six months later announced that he planned to establish elBullifoundation. "We will officially present the foundation in November," he said this morning. "We are transforming what was the restaurant into a creative space. It is still taking shape and we plan to open in March 2015, but we’re not in a hurry. It will be a place to reflect and think. We want everyone, even small children, to think about cooking in the context of creativity."

In 2012 Adrià launched the Global Ideas Challenge in which 31 business schools competed to draft ideas of what elBullifoundation would be. IESE was chosen as the partner to help to develop the creativity center on the site of the restaurant at Cala Montjoi on Spain’s Costa Brava. The project is part of the entrepreneurship course run by Prof. Julia Prats.

As the foundation is very much a work in progress and Adrià is famously mercurial, the project represented something of a departure for the MBA students. "It’s so dynamic, you don’t know what to expect from one session to the next," says Patricia Cabrera (USA), who says it has helped her free herself from a more rigidly structured approach to problem solving. "The team is constantly brainstorming and the aim is always to break the mould and create something new. It’s a way of thinking that could be applied to many fields," says Spaniard Oriol Chimenos.

"It’s the kind of practical experience you crave when you’re in the classroom," says Belkis Boyacigiller (USA), speaking of her three months stint at the foundation. "It’s not always by the book, which is what makes it so exciting. I’ve learnt a lot about ambiguity and coming up with a concrete solution."

Adrià says he didn’t look on them as students. "I saw myself as a sort of CEO, and they were part of the team," he said, adding that "being creative means breaking the rules."

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