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El Bulli: Cooking in Progress


Stars: Ferran Adriá

Director: Gereon Wetzel

First, the good news.

The Spanish restaurant sanctified by Wetzel in his hagiographic German-made documentary is apparently the finest upmarket eatery in the world.

And the bad news? ItÂ’s closed!

Which is a tad unfortunate since the film is the longest, most loving advertisement I've seen in quite a while.

So if you hanker for oysters with bone marrow tartare or a cocktail consisting of water, hazelnut oil and salt, youÂ’ll have to look elsewhere since superchef Ferran AdriĂ  has quit, leaving trendies having to search for somewhere else to eat that is as exclusive and ego-burnishing as El Bulli, where bookings for New YearÂ’s Eve were taken in the previous January.

Adrià, “widely considered the best, most innovative and craziest chef in the world”, is followed by Wetzel’s cameras as he closes his restaurant for half the year so that he and his team of chefs can spend the time in his Barcelona cooking laboratory to devise a new menu for the coming season.

The lack of a desperately needed commentary eventually made me lose my appetite for the film. While the ‘fly on the wall’ technique employed by Wetzel draws you into the all too often daffy meal-making experiments involving everything from rabbits’ brains to tendons and edible flowers, you’re never quite sure what’s going on.

(One thing really worried me, though. In the opening scenes I watched a chef in El Bulli scratch his head and then go on to prepare meals. Mind you, given the ingredients used by AdriĂ , this might well have been deliberate flavouring).

At least I did learn something from the film. The German for ‘marshmallow’ appears to be ‘marshmallow’.

David Quinlan

Germany 2012. UK Distributor: Artificial Eye. Colour.
113 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 27 Jul 2012