Friday, 28 September 2012

Food on Film: El Bulli

The Documentary El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2010) came out on DVD in the UK this week. It was on the top of my DVD rental list and I have just devoured it.

Director Gereon Wetzel filmed for a year (2008/09), following dishes from initial conception through to completion. El Bulli, which was located in the small seaside town of Roses in Catalonia, closed for good in 2011, so this is a valuable document of the restaurant at its peak.

The film starts in October, when El Bulli closes for six months. Ferran Adrià and his core team of head chefs (Oriol Castrol, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas) move to a laboratory in Barcelona where they experiment. By the time the restaurant opens in June, they have created a whole new menu of astonishing and innovative dishes.
The documentary is refreshingly free of voice-over. We are mostly watching chefs working, punctuated by Ferran Adrià addressing his core team and staff at various stages. The documentary gives a great insight into how Adrià directs operations from start to finish. In one sequence, filmed in July, he eats his way through the tasting menu, making copious notes – always striving for perfection.
A percussive score by Stephan Diethelm, which probably had its origin in kitchen utensils being hit, threatens at times to become irritating, but ultimately delivers on an emotional level, especially during the climax of the film. Here, we are shown a montage of stunningly photographed dishes from the 2008/09 menu. Earlier in the film, some of these dishes were just ideas being batted around by the chefs. A concept lies behind each dish. Water is jokingly noted as an underlying theme for that year’s menu ("What did they serve you at El Bulli? Water"). This really is serious fun.
Each dish has to pass Adrià’s “magical test”. These are some that did: Tea shrimp with caviar anemones, needle tree, blossom with its own nectar, coconut sponge, pumpkin meringue sandwich with almonds and summer truffle, oilwater osmanthus, rabbit brain in its own ragout, rabbit rib in its essence, vanishing ravioli, sweet potato gnocchi, minted ice lake, minted apple phylo, frozen rose, chocolates.
I highly recommend this DVD to anyone interested in both modern food and modern art.


Selected ‘ Food on Film’ posts:
Ratatoille (Ferran Adrià involvement)

I am Love
See also:
Narbeth, Sospan bach, Ultracomida and El Bulli Beer


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