El Bulli

Gereon Wetzel

Germany, 2010, 108 mins.

The doors of restaurant El Bulli are only open to the public for six months of the year; the rest of the time, a team of experts is creating a new avant-garde 30-course menu. Looking on from the sidelines, we watch experiments with structure, sound, color and – finally – flavor. Owner Ferran Adrià is always on hand, tasting everything created in this flavor lab.

El Bulli in Spain is arguably the best restaurant in the world. Only when it closes, it passes this honor on to Nomad in Copenhagen. Closes? Yes, each year El Bulli closes for a couple of months so that the chefs can retreat to their lab and construct new – well, how shall I put it – ‘cuisine’.

El Bulli restaurant

German  filmmaker Gereon Wetzel followed the chefs in their lab and in the restaurant. In the film El Bulli – Cooking in progress, he perfectly aligns the creation of the new cuisine with the narrative of the film itself. And despite the lack of smell and taste in cinema, he manages to get across some of the sensations that food at El Bulli is all about.
In the beginning of the film we witness how staff pack up the kitchen utensils and furnishings of El Bulli and drive them to Barcelona. Here they set up a labkitchen and start experimenting. Initially we see familiar ingredients: sweet potatoes and mushrooms of various kinds. But when the first step is to create sweet potato juice, it starts becoming less familiar. What can you do with sweet potato juice? You can fry it! With a little oil, with lots of oil or without any oil. Just see what works best. The chefs buy five grapes: why buy a kilo if you need only five for an experiment? And no, no asparagus, they still have three beans. They try various mushroom broths, without any idea where it will take them. Nor do we as viewers have any idea where this film is taking us. Who are these chefs? What are their names, their roles and positions?


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