Documentarian Gereon Wetzel's latest film follows Ferran Adrià and his highly skilled staff as they create the menus for El Bulli's final seasons (the restaurant is set to close at the end of this month). While countless articles and even books have been written about Adrià's iconic culinary style, El Bulli: Cooking in Progress gives the public an unprecedented glimpse into the outer workings of his culinary imagination at work.
The film opens as the staff is closing up El Bulli for the season and Adrià and a select group of colleagues head from the Costa Brava to Barcelona for their six-month stint in the Taller, or workshop — Adrià's cooking laboratory. The team of chefs that featured in this first portion of the movie is led by the restaurant's chef de cuisine, Oriol Castro, who has been at the restaurant since 2001.
The rigorous process of innovation and testing that the chefs go through to create ideas for new dishes is reminiscent of the scientific method — pinpointing which products are in season, discussing every possible edible application for that product, testing out methods, and then analyzing results (over and over). While their system is highly technical, Adrià explains that the goal is to create food that is magical.
The second half of the movie follows the staff through opening day of the new El Bulli season. Along with the paid employees, Adrià and his team handpick a class of stagiares, or interns — an army of eager and ambitious young chefs — to train in their kitchen. While many dishes began as seeds of ideas in the lab during the off-season, the team continues to work at tweaking and perfecting the concepts until they're ready to be served.
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress debuted in America at New York's Museum of Modern Art in February, screened on July 13 at the non-profit Avon Theatre in Stamford, Conn., and will have its first regular U.S. run at Film Forum in New York City from July 27 to August 9, after which it will be released for limited screenings in various cities around the country. The Daily Meal's editorial director, Colman Andrews, will answer questions and comment on the film after the 7:50 p.m. screening on August 5.
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