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El Bulli - Cooking in Progress

El Bulli - Cooking in Progress

Released 27 July 2012
Director Gereon Wetzel
Starring


Ferran Adriá, Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch, Eugeni de Diego, Aitor Lozano
Writer(s)

Anna Gnesti Rosell, Gereon Wetzel
Producer(s)

Petra Felber, Ingo Fliess, Jutta Krug
Origin Germany
Running Time 84 minutes
Genre Documentary
Rating TBC
50

Too many chefs.

You may or may not have heard of it, but the Spanish avant-garde restaurant El Bulli had the reputation as one of the best in the world. Each night, it served a haute cuisine menu of over thirty courses, designed and prepared by Ferran Adrià, a man known as the Salvador Dali of the kitchen. The average cost of such a meal was €250 in 2010.

German director Gereon Wetzel’s documentary follows Adrià and his team as they move from their “laboratory” in Barcelona to the kitchen of El Bulli itself. It explores the scientific precision it takes to craft the surreal dishes of El Bulli (including a type of ravioli that is totally transparent and dissolves in water).

The film is an odd one. It immediately drops the audience into the world of creating food as art, and it doesn’t make many exceptions for a lack of prior knowledge. As such it can be very disorientating and overwhelming.

Much of the documentary consists if Adrià and his team experimenting with incredibly elaborate and weird new dishes. Visually El Bulli is strong and offers some wonderfully bizarre imagery, including a scene where the chefs are sold a live lobster in a street market. However there is little here to warrant a feature length documentary as opposed to a shorter work.

Far too long is spent chronicling the intricacies of each dish, and Adrià jumps around from dish to dish so fast it’s difficult to get a handle on what is actually going on. By the time the dishes are finally served up on a plate they are still totally mystifying, even when the previous ninety minutes have depicted their creation. This is probably the intention of either Adrià or Wetzel or both, to allow El Bulli to retain some of the mystique it prizes so highly. The downside is that it leaves the resulting documentary feeling somewhat hollow – like a soufflé that’s been inflated with a bicycle pump.

El Bulli – both the film and the restaurant – come across as more concerned about the art than about the food itself, so even those with a love of all things culinary may be disappointed. With all its focus on the chefs and the kitchen of El Bulli, the diners in the restaurant are hardly shown, and never at all are they shown eating the food. Like the food served in the eponymous restaurant, El Bulli looks great, but lacks depth.

The one question I had going in to the film seems to be the one it totally failed to answer: How does the food actually taste?

- Bernard O’Rourke