Hot Docs: El Builli – Cooking in Progress [Gereon Wetzel, 2011]

Toronto – Even with my limited knowledge of world class chefs and restaurants, I’ve heard of the legendary Spanish restaurant El Bulli. A restaurant that overlooks the Cala Montjoi Bay near the town of Roses, El Bulli specializes in molecular gastronomy. It is headed by a mad scientist of a chef – Ferran Adri√†, whose unique and bizarre creations have earned the restaurant the moniker of “best restaurant in the world” for four of the past five years. The documentary El Bulli – Cooking in Progress takes a behind the scenes at this restaurant, giving us a glimpse at some of the processes behind the food creations and the operational methods of a top restaurant.

As a person who kind of likes to cook, I found this documentary fascinating. We are first taken to El Bulli in their offseason (El Bulli is only open half the year), as Ferran and his band of head chefs design the menu for the upcoming season. Coming off as scientists rather than chefs, the crew spend countless hours trying to reinvent the wheel, looking for ways to create a new taste or smell, using all sorts of ingredients. Every detail is written down in a meticulous manner, spawning binders upon binders of ideas, mixtures and recipes. It appears to be quite the process. Wannabe cooks, make no mistake, this documentary is not a cooking tutorial. A cocktail with various cooking oils is attempted, food is made to look like other food, things are vaccuumized – it all looks completely out of the world. Ferran, for his part, is unlike most of the chefs you have probably seen on the food network. He’s calm, supportive and completely trusting of his sous chef and the like. Compared to the angry, catch phrase obsessed ego maniacs you see on regular television, it’s really refreshing to see. The rest of the documentary takes you through the rest of the process, from acquainting new hires to the eventual opening, a slideshow of the menu items ends off the film. It all looks like a rather friendly and efficient operation, which is unlike what you hear about most places.

This documentary would be highly interesting to any self-proclaimed foodies. Lacking an emotional or argumentative narrive, it is primarily a straight forward “this is how we do things” documentary, more intent on giving you a behind a scenes look then providing any opinions about the restaurant or the chef. I would have liked some insight into why Ferran chose to go down this course, or why some of the chefs have been at El Bulli for so long (three of his chefs have been there for over a decade), but I guess this film is purely about the food and process – both of which look pretty damn good.

Fri, Apr 29 8:45 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Sat, Apr 30 1:00 PM @ Cumberland 2
Sun, May 8 3:00 PM @ Cumberland 3

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs

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Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.