What does an acclaimed chef do for an encore after he's closed the best restaurant in the world?
For Ferran Adria, former head chef of Spain's elBulli, it's creating a new menu of big ideas.
Called the elBulli Foundation, Adria's new umbrella enterprise will encompass everything from an Internet search engine of gastronomy to a food laboratory to a huge visitor center.
All of this is necessary, he says, to explain his theories not just about cooking but about creativity writ large.
"Here you will eat knowledge," says the great chef of his elBulli Foundation.
More like a physicist or philosopher than a chef, Adria says he's come up with a "theory of everything" -- a model to unlock creativity in any walk of life.
Dali in the kitchen
"This is not about cooking. It's about creativity," he says, speaking through a translator while walking through the building that will house his new operation, an abandoned textile factory, in Barcelona, home to great Catalan innovators such as architect Antoni Gaudi and surrealist paint Salvador Dali .
The elBulli Foundation will spawn a research laboratory, BulliPedia (an online encyclopedia of food) and massive open online courses to teach gastronomy and creativity.
"I am a cook but no one else is thinking these things," he says.
He believes Bullipedia will become the most disruptive Internet venture since Wikipedia.
Adria tends to speak of himself as "we."
It's his way of recognizing his collaborators, some of who have gone on to create their own great restaurants.
"We have thought many times that we are crazy," he says. "If that is so then we must be changing many things."
With the passion of the self-taught, Adria speaks with his hands as much as his mouth, kneading the air as if it were pastry, pinching fingers together to make points as if adding salt.
It's all in the recipe
Any business, skill or art can be improved with a touch of elBulli magic, he suggests.
"The aim of this project is to show people they can be creative ... to be creative about any process," says Adria, waving his arms so vigorously you're glad he's not wielding a kitchen knife.
Adria, 52, is a native of Catalonia. He joined the army at 19 and became a cook.
He was hired to the kitchen staff of elBulli restaurant at 22, working in the little restaurant on the beach at Roses on the Costa Brava north of Barcelona.
Rising to head chef, he was recognized as an innovator, leading elBulli to a record five wins in the "world's best restaurant" awards.
A pioneer in molecular gastronomy, Adria liberated new tastes and developed new methods such as nitrogen-infused foams.
Despite holding three Michelin stars -- menu items included frozen whisky sour candy and tobacco-flavored blackberries -- elBulli closed in July 2011.
During a two-hour tour of his enormous new space, Adria explains the creative force that drove him to lead the world's best restaurant, only to close it after 25 years.
A polymath and control freak, Adria's new kitchen of ideas features hundreds of meters of foam pinboards with ideas big and small sketched on them.