El Bulli: Cooking In Progress

By Sanura Weathers

Director Geron Wetzel’s documentary, “El Bulli: Cooking In Progress,” opens with Chef Ferran Adriá tasting a fluorescent lollipop made of a Japanese fluorescent fish created from a pastry chef in the U.S., in which the inside of Adriá’s mouth glows brighter. The film transitions to El Bulli’s staff in the process of closing the restaurant for a length of time. The silverware is meticulously wrapped as uncommon and high tech food devices, such as a vacuum machine, are packed onto a truck. The machines’ destination is Adriá’s culinary lab, El Taller. From there, viewers have the opportunity to observe the creative process behind the innovative dishes of the “best restaurant in the world,” El Bulli.

It’s less about the science of food, and more about the art of creativity. The documentary takes the audience behind the scenes of an awarding winning chef and his culinary team’s explorations in rethinking the concept of food. For six months out of the year Adriá, owner of El Bulli, closes his restaurant to create magical-tasting and innovative dishes.

The art of the creative process is increasingly lost in today’s fast-paced world. As Adriá supervises the process, Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch, and others meticulously experiment with ingredients and cooking techniques. The process is similar to the sketch phrase of many artists. In one particular experiment, the sweet potato is boiled, roasted, vacuumized, and so forth to extract new ideas for taste and visual appearances. For the testing of wild mushrooms, varieties are arranged on a cutting board. Instead of traditionally slicing them vertically, the gills are separated from the cap, providing another visual approach to looking at a mushroom. The repetitive linear pattern of the gills is visually zen and harmonizing. Such experiments result in unusual dishes to the amusement and bewilderment of El Bulli’s customers.

The successful experiments return to the restaurant towards the end of six months of creativity, in which 35 new international cooks familiarize themselves with El Bulli’s hierarchy and culinary skills. Just like transferring ideas from a sketchbook to a blank canvas, Adriá and his chefs continue the process of developing recipes with their successful experiments from the culinary lab. During the first month of El Bulli’s opening, the previous season’s dishes are served. The new dishes are gradually introduced into the menu. In one scene, a cocktail made of hazelnut oil, salt, and water is served with sparkling instead of flat water. Is it a happy accident? Accidents are part of the creative process. 

El Bulli is a pioneer in Spanish molecular gastronomy. With two million annual requests each year, only 50 people per night of the six months are served a 30-course menu of cocktails, snacks, tapas, desserts, and morphs (morphs are the conclusion of the menu). No guest is served the same dish from a previous season. El Bulli is a three-star Michelin restaurant outside of Barcelona, Spain. Its innovative and thought-provoking dishes have garnered numerous prestigious culinary awards in the last decade. Next month on July 30, El Bulli will close their doors forever. But from their creativity, contemporary culinary art has sprung.

A special thank you to Julia Pacetti from JMP Verdant Communications for organizing the event and her gracious welcome.

Hi-Res Photos are available at here. 

For the semi-official site, click here. 

To view the YouTube.com video, click here.

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