El Bulli Documentary Hits Screens in Evanston, Chicago

November 17 2011 - 2:09 PM

El Bulli FilmFor those of us that didn't have the chance to eat at El Bulli before it closed, or who will never be able to snag tickets to Next's El Bulli menu, a new Spanish documentary is the closest we'll ever get to the progressive cuisine of Ferran Adria. El Bulli: Cooking in Progress offers a glimpse into the mad scientist mind of one of the world's most regarded, and debated, chefs. Whether you think he's a genius or a basket case, the film will shed some light on his singularly creative process.

Every year, Adria would close one of the most highly regarded restaurants in the world and travel from Catalonia, Spain, to an off-site lab where he tinkers, experiments, and finally creates the next round of menus for El Bulli. The film chronicles the blend of art, science, and out-of-the-box ideas that eventually becomes dishes on Adria's menu. Instead of a strict interview style, German director Gereon Wetzel takes a more observational approach, allowing the creative process to unfold on its own, and prompting the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions.

Often labeled the poster boy for "molecular gastronomy," Adria, along with chefs Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal, repudiated that term in a 2006 open letter, instead describing their innovative cuisine as simply "our cooking" or "a new approach to cooking." The restaurant served its final meal this past July, but Adria has plans to open a research institute for food, and he'll be in Chicago this winter to cook with the like-minded Grant Achatz for Next's El Bulli-inspired incarnation.

Of course, most of us will never be able to eat Adria's creations, and the film may be the most accessible way to understand the methodology of this culinary pioneer. The film screens at The Block Cinema at Northwestern tomorrow at 7 PM, and The Siskel Film Center beginning Nov. 25.

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, dir. Gereon Wetzel, Catalan with English subtitles, 108 minutes