El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

a review
Embarcadero November 17, 2011, alone at 2:40pm.

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Renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adrià is widely considered the best, most innovative and craziest chef in the world. In his kitchen, that which was once familiar disintegrates. Each year his restaurant El Bulli closes for half a year—time for Adrià and his team to retire to his Barcelona cooking laboratory to create the new menu for the coming season. Filmmaker Gereon Wetzel closely observes their quest—from initial experimentation to the premiere of the finished dish. In the course of that process, however, many an ingredient is examined in a totally new way. Taste and texture are systematically analyzed: by boiling, roasting, frying, steaming—vacuumizing, spherifying, freeze-drying—and then, tasting. Ideas emerge, are discussed and, finally, all the results, whether good or bad, are thoroughly documented—on a laptop beside the cooking spoon. Anything goes—except copying oneself. An elegant, detailed study of food as avant-garde art, El Bulli: Cooking In Progress is a tasty peek at some of the world’s most innovative and exciting cooking; as Adrià himself puts it, “the more bewilderment, the better!” (Fully subtitled)
Director: Gereon Wetzel
Cast: Ferran Adrià, Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch, Eugeni de Diego, Aitor Lozano

ABOUT THE RESTAURANT
Revolutionary Spanish eatery El Bulli is a Michelin three-star restaurant in Roses, Spain (two hours northeast of Barcelona); each night, it serves a tasting menu of 30+ courses, prepared by over 40 chefs, to a single seating of up to 50 guests. For the current season, its last before transforming into a culinary academy, over two million requests were received for the 8,000 available seats. Head chef Ferran Adrià, who took over the restaurant in 1987 and instituted the tradition of yearly developmental sabbaticals, has become the leading inspiration for avant-garde cuisine worldwide, alternately referred to as a mad scientist or Salvador Dali of the kitchen.

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MY TAKE – This was good and engaging and very well presented; but to me, this wasn’t about El Bulli or about food, it was about research, development and presentation of a product… it happens to be food in this case. But the product doesn’t look like food, one doesn’t lick ones chops at the preparation or presentation of the food… the only reason I was hungry when I left – it was almost dinnertime. There is plenty of Ferran Adria and his top chefs tasting things and words like “brilliant” “exciting” “magic” “bewilderment” and Ferran once admonishes a chef, “This doesn’t taste good. Never bring me anything that doesn’t taste good.”
As for El Bulli, there are gorgeous pictures of the restaurant and the setting, but never the dining room, never patrons enjoying their meal. I was interested in how “china” is selected/created for each dish, but not a word about that. At the end, the camera focused on Adria as he was served each dish in the sequence it will be (is being?) served to the diners.
Would that we could have experienced touch (since many of the courses are eaten with one’s fingers) and taste and smell.
It’s like a long and critical and loving study of a woman’s face and makeup and skin care, but at the end, you know nothing about the woman, except that her face is quite beautiful and she lives in a fabulous house on the Mediterranean.

“For a foodie, the new film about Spain’s renowned El Bulli restaurant is a bit like an Angelina Jolie movie for a teenage boy… Food lovers can now salivate via celluloid. El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, a meticulous exploration of how this famously avant-garde eatery comes up with its insanely inventive creations…for those passionate about the artistry and indeed the science of cooking, it’s dangerously close to porn. There are some unintentionally very funny moments, like when two chefs go to the local market and ask for five single grapes for their testing – and three beans”
– Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press

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One thought on “El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

  1. ok, just watched this via Netflix. I loved it because it showed the exploration of new dishes from the beginning to the end. I loved watching the cooks mess around with sweet potatoes until they discovered, almost by accident (as many other dishes seem to gel) that the goo left when one roasts a sweet potato is really really good — we need to create a dish to use this goo!

    There is a lot of ‘diva chef’ in the movie, which makes you think that the filmmakers wanted this, but there’s also a lot about just HOW HARD it is to continue to astonish diners through their palates. I loved this film, although since i am the owner of “A Day At El Bulli” the book, I have to say I already saw the film, so in a way one could buy the book had have the experience. Or one could see the film and understand this wacky end of culinary arts as well…I enjoyed both.

    Like

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