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Movie review: El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

The Foodie Film Feastival at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art will begin with a documentary that captures chef Ferran Adria as he conjures a menu for his iconic restaurant, El Bulli.
by Dave Cathey Published: September 14, 2011

It's only fitting the Foodie Film Feastival begins and ends with “El Bulli: Cooking in Progress.”

The documentary focuses on the recently closed Rosa, Spain, restaurant El Bulli, which earned three Michelin stars and the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants Award five times in the past decade. At the heart of the restaurant overlooking Costa Brava, is its owner and chef, Ferran Adria.

Adria has been called the chef of the decade, the father of molecular gastronomy and chef Frankenstein. It's ironic that a man associated with bringing science to the culinary arts talks so much of magic.

And when the film opens with Adria quietly sitting in the dark with a fluorescent sucker in his mouth, it's apparent you're in for a magic show. He pulls flavor from the glowing lollipop a few seconds, shows his now-glowing tongue, then asks, “What protein is this?”

“Fish,” he's told.

Most of us would ask how it was done, but Adria knows. He probably invented the technique. Instead, Adria wants details: “From where?”

This is the thought process of the celebrated, iconoclastic chef. This is a man who considers ideas, possibilities and magic over boundaries.

For the next 108 minutes, we are invited behind the veil. The wizard of Catalonia invited cameras into his kitchen where for six months a year he and his team prepared a menu for the other half of the year until this past July. El Bulli closed July 30 so that it can become a year-round center for gastronomic creativity and research. Adria is set to continue his culinary Lewis and Clark quest in 2014.

“El Bulli: Cooking in Progress,” the work of German director Gereon Wetzel, takes a minimalist approach, which makes sense. The avant-garde subject plays in stark contrast to the point-and-shoot, music-free, narration-free film and gives it harmony.

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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