Every great restaurant has both a front and a back of the house. Juli Soler personified the front of the house in one of the most influential restaurants in history. In 1983, he was managing an unassuming seaside bar and grill that was part of a miniature golf course when he hired a young chef with an unimpressive résumé. It was a very inauspicious start, but, together, the two of them changed the world of cooking. The chef was Ferran Adrià, and the miniature-golf bar and grill was elBulli.
To say that elBulli was special is an understatement. Carved out of a bay on the Costa Brava, it was a magical spot, and Juli was largely responsible for that magic. Committed diners waited years to secure a reservation before traveling incredible distances for a single, albeit very large, meal. Juli was there to welcome them at the climax of their journey. He was everything a host should be—gracious, funny, and warm. He changed the fine-dining experience, stripping away many of the formalities so that guests could relax and engage emotionally and intellectually with the dishes in front of them.
The cuisine of elBulli, crafted by Ferran, his brother Albert Adrià, and an extremely talented team, was legendary of course, but there would have been no elBulli without Juli. He was the kind of person you wanted to work with, someone who inspired the people around him to grow. As elBulli began to evolve, he encouraged the team to learn, travel, and experiment. When Ferran took sole control of the kitchen and threw out old recipes, Juli fostered Ferran’s burgeoning creativity. They took risks, challenged conventions, and would eventually close the restaurant down for six months each year so the chefs could dedicate themselves to research and culinary innovation. The dishes that came out of elBulli captivated diners and inspired chefs throughout the world, including the Modernist Cuisine team and the work that we do.
Together, Juli and Ferran transformed an inconspicuous restaurant into a hotbed of culinary creativity. Some of the most talented chefs in the world passed through the kitchen and went on to become industry leaders—their success is a testament to the tremendous environment Juli created. elBulli is one of the great restaurants. It will be talked about for many years to come and Juli’s legacy will live on in those conversations.
Juli will be deeply missed. Our thoughts go out to his loved ones and the elBulli family.