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El Bulli: Cooking in Progress 

A doc looks behind the scenes at the influential avant-garde Spanish restaurant

Ferran Adrià (right) and his chefs at work in the test kitchen.
  • Ferran Adrià (right) and his chefs at work in the test kitchen.

El Bulli is Ferran Adrià's avant-garde restaurant in Spain, where the deconstruction and re-presentation of food is as important as its taste. Gereon Wetzel's vérité film, El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, documents the 2008-09 season. It begins with Coast Brava restaurant being packed up and the chefs moving to Barcelona for the winter. There, for several months, Adrià and his chefs meticulously work on a new menu. It's a process of scientific experimentation, as various techniques, ingredients and combinations thereof are tried (and recorded in ledgers), as Adrià seeks dishes that will also spark diners' taste buds, emotions and intellect. 

The second half of the film relocates to El Bulli, as we watch the final dishes take shape within the preternaturally calm kitchen. Wetzel's film offers no voiceover or explanation: It is simply a linear chronicle of the myriad tasks and decisions -- from sweeping the gravel driveway to choosing which oil to float atop a cocktail -- that comprise the El Bulli experience. As such, it's spare and a bit slow, but for those who wish to see how an influential and cutting-edge restaurant operates -- from concept to plate -- it should be of interest. If you're inspired to book your own visit to El Bulli, alas, it has since closed. In Catalan and French, with subtitles. Starts Mon., Dec. 26, through Thu., Dec. 29. Harris 

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