"The most influential restaurant in the world."
-- The New York Times
"...a celebration of the human desire to turn food into art." Grade: A-
- Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weeekly
"Kitchen voyeurism, ideal for foodies." - Cinematical
"CRITICS' PICK! Fans of shows like Top Chef are well advised to check out this fascinating and artful look at El Bulli." -- New York Magazine
"A gleaming documentary... immaculately crafted." - Variety
"It's cooking like you've never seen."
- Charlotte Druckman, The Wall Street Journal
For Immediate Release
New York, NY - March 23, 2012 - Alive Mind Cinema is proud to announce the DVD release of El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2011), a documentary by Gereon Wetzel that explores the working methods of renowned chef Ferran Adria and his legendary restaurant, El Bulli.
The film, which Alive Mind Cinema released theatrically in 2011, is a revealing look inside the kitchen of renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adria that Film Threat calls "an insider look at something very few have ever had the pleasure of experiencing."
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2011) comes to DVD on March 27th, with bonus features including an interview with chef George Mendes and a theatrical trailer. The SRP is $29.95.
Located in Catalonia, Spain, Adria's restaurant - El Bulli - closed for six months each year while Adria and his team of culinary experts designed a fresh, innovative menu for the next season. Not content with anything ordinary, Adria's scientific approach involved intense research and experimentation to create a variety of dishes that had never been experienced before. Filmmaker Gereon Wetzel goes "behind the scenes" of the kitchen for a glimpse into the creative process of the culinary arts, exploring the methods and approaches that went in to creating the perfect menu. Over the course of the six months, Adria pushes himself and his team to develop new recipes, always innovating and never repeating themselves to deliver a 30-course menu that his guests would never forget.
From the inception of new recipes, through experimentation and creation,
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2011) gives audiences the chance to experience the process behind the wide tapestry of cuisine developed each year at El Bulli by master chef Ferran Adria.
As Adria himself puts it, "the more bewilderment, the better!"
Interview with Chef George Mendes * Theatrical Trailer
1.85:1, 16x9 * 108 minutes * Catalan w/ English Subtitles * Dolby Digital * Not Rated * Color
Visit the official El Bulli page at AliveMindCinema.com
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress
Director: Gereon Wetzel
Street date: March 27, 2012
EL BULLI Screening at Berlinale tomorrow, Sunday, 11:30, at CinemaxX Potsdamer Platz!
"Foodies consider “El Bulli: Cooking In Progress” a must-see, and you can see it at the Film Forum at Houston Street." - New York (CBS 2)
El Bulli fans thronged Film Forum for opening night, which sold out for the 7:50 showing with Q&A hosted by George Mendes of Aldea. Below are exclusive interviews with Alyssa Shelasky, writer for Grub Street and New York Magazine and author of the blog "Apron Anxiety", and Melinda Miller, on their thoughts about all things El Bulli.
"CRITICS' PICK! Fans of shows like Top Chef are well advised to check out this fascinating and artful look at the meticulous research-and-development process for the experimental dishes at El Bulli, where every unique dish came with plentiful bragging rights." - New York Magazine
"It's cooking like you've never seen." - Charlotte Druckman, The Wall Street Journal
"For a foodie, the new film about Spain's renowned El Bulli restaurant is a bit like an Angelina Jolie movie for a teenage boy... Food lovers can now salivate via celluloid. El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, a meticulous exploration of how this famously avant-garde eatery comes up with its insanely inventive creations...for those passionate about the artistry and indeed the science of cooking, it's dangerously close to porn. There are some unintentionally very funny moments, like when two chefs go to the local market and ask for five single grapes for their testing - and three beans."
- Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press
"By now there have been so many documentaries about restaurants that they form a film genre...But here now is El Bulli, which in some ways transcends them all, and poignantly serves as a memorial." - Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic
"Molecular gastronomy rock star Ferran Adria's Catalonian culinary paradise... the culinary impossible is realized one painstaking step at a time." - Karina Longworth, Village Voice
"Adria's legacy is so unavoidable...missing this documentary would be a shame." - Screen Comment
"This isn't the first film about El Bulli...But it's arguably the most immersive" - Alexis D. Loinaz, Speakeasy
"Reveals the secrets behind the doors of El Bulli that would otherwise be inaccessible to the public." - Matt Essert, Marcus Samuelsson's Blog
"A cooking film in the purest sense...nicely captures the elegance of both the striking coastal restaurant and its artfully rendered cuisine...a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of a celebrated restaurant, soon to be remembered in mythic terms." - Joe Bendel, Epoch Times
"A clear, unvarnished look at the master at work." - Scott Tobias, The AV Club
How did the idea to document the El Bulli restaurant come about?
To be honest, I had never been inside a star-rated restaurant, much less in one with three stars. What intrigued us was the fact that this chef would close his restaurant for six months to come up with new ideas. The cooks seclude themselves, like in a cloister, forfeiting half a year's business, to express their creativity. I found that odd and fascinating. From the very beginning, the ﬁlmʼs focus clearly lay on their work in the Taller. Taller is a Catalan word for workshop, but it means studio too. Creative processes had already interested me in my previous ﬁlms.
Did you face any particular challenges in gaining permission to film inside the El Bulli kitchen?
Actually no. Even beginning the project was astonishingly easy. We simply wrote an e-mail to Ferran and outlined our project. He invited us and we then more or less planed the project. One important question for us was if he had any secrets he didn't want to disclose. His answer was: no. And "no" it was and we could move freely the whole time and film whatever we wanted. But we didn't overdo it and only filmed for a few evenings in the restaurant when it was in full action.
Was there any reluctance on the part of the staff to reveal the process that goes into creating the unique cuisine at El Bulli? What challenges did you face in bringing this process to the screen?
The big challenge always is to bring patience along to a project and to precisely observe what is happening without wanting to understand everything immediately. During our ﬁrst shoot in the Taller we were still quite bewildered, as we realized how complex the processes are, how quickly they were conceived and made, how quickly things developed and how diﬁcult it is to follow. Although I can understand and speak Spanish and Catalan the chefs use a very much encoded language and often use gestures and glances to communicate. Anna Ginestí Rosell, my wife and film partner, was immensely important in understanding and anticipating interesting situations. Also important was the access to all their material – in the ﬁlm you can see how each experiment is carefully documented, with a report sheet for each dish. We were allowed to copy these reports and use them to prepare the next phase of shooting. This material also proved to be very useful during editing, as they helped to identify the dishes and identiﬁed which ingredients were used.
How much time did you spend shooting footage for the documentary and following the work of Ferran Adria and his staff?
We shot over a period of 15 months in twelve phases so that we were able to cover the whole cycle of El Bulli. The project had been in planning for two years before that and editing the film took then another 8 months.
Did you realize at the time you were filming that the restaurant would be closing, and that your film may stand as the final filmed record of El Bulli?
That is a coincidence. We also only knew that in january 2010 when the shooting had already been completed. Lets see which way Ferran and his team are going to go now but I believe we are all very happy to have documented the unique working methods of El Bulli with this film.
Did you find yourself influenced by any other documentaries while making the film?
I wasn't inspired by films about cooking but rather by films that try to give an insight into a creative process like "The Mystery of Picasso" by Henri-Georges Clouzot. But more crucial to me is the method and I was very much influenced by the american idols of the uncontrolled cinema like Pennebaker, Leacock, Wiseman or the brothers Maysles. Centering on the situation, the scene and the protagonists in an observing way with a minimum of interviews or staged situations.
The linup of guest speakers for selected screenings of EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS at Film Forum has been announced!
APPEARING IN PERSON: Colman Andrews, biographer of Ferran Adria; George Mendes of Aldea; Otger Campas, founder of Harvard's "Cooking & Science" course; Paras Shah, Sous Chef at La Fonda Del Sol; and, Dave Arnold, Director of Culinary Technology at the French Culinary Institute
In-person appearances of chefs and experts at public screenings of EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS at Film Forum, at 209 West Houston St. in New York, are as follows:
WEDNESDAY, JULY 27th: GEORGE MENDES
Q&A WITH AUDIENCE AFTER 7:50 SHOW
The Executive Chef and owner of Aldea, a Michelin-starred restaurant located in Manhattan's Union Square area, George Mendes staged at El Bulli in 2003. In 2010, he made the short list for a nomination in the James Beard Foundation's "Best Chef New York" award category.
SATURDAY, JULY 30th: OTGER CAMPAS
Q&A WITH AUDIENCE AFTER 5:30 SHOW
A postdoctoral fellow in applied physics and math at Harvard University, Otger Campas is one of the founders of the school's wildly popular "Cooking & Science" course. In 2008, he served as a scientific consultant for Ferran Adria's workshop, elBulli Taller.
SUNDAY, JULY 31: PARAS SHAH
Q&A WITH AUDIENCE AFTER 5:30 SHOW
Paras Shah is a former El Bulli stagiaire, winner of the prestigious ICEX (The Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade) scholarship, Momofuku alumnus and current Sous Chef at La Fonda Del Sol.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3rd: DAVE ARNOLD
Q&A WITH AUDIENCE AFTER 7:50 SHOW
An expert in the physics and chemistry of cooking, Dave Arnold is Director of Culinary Technology at the French Culinary Institute and Food Arts magazine's Contributing Editor for Equipment & Food Science. He is currently raising funds for the creation of a New York-based Museum of Food and Drink and starting a new cooking equipment company with Momofuku's David Chang.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 5th: COLMAN ANDREWS
Q&A WITH AUDIENCE AFTER 7:50 SHOW
One of the founders of Saveur magazine, author, editor and culinary critic Colman Andrews wrote the recent biography Ferran: The Inside Story of El Bulli and The Man Who Reinvented Food. The recipient of eight James Beard awards, he was recently named editorial director of the food and wine site The Daily Meal.
by Kon-Yao Kwek
El Bulli, widely regarded by gourmets and food critics around the globe as the best restaurant in the world, will close its doors at the end of this month, after serving up inimitable culinary experiences to its customers for over four decades. But this famed establishment, which sits overlooking the bucolic bay of Cala Montjoi in the Spanish province of Catalonia, has not always been the mecca of haute cuisine. In fact, the story of El Bulli begins with something quite removed from the world of fine dining--the game of mini-golf.
In 1961, Dr. Hans Schilling and his wife, Marketta, visited the town of Roses (which is located near Cala Montjoi) and fell in love with the area. They subsequently bought a piece of land at Cala Montjoi, and decided to set up a mini-golf course. The Schillings owned several French bulldogs of a breed colloquially referred to as "bulli"--thus the name for their business, "El Bulli," was derived.
El Bulli existed as a mini-golf course for just over a year, when in 1963, because of Cala Montjoi's popularity among tourists as a scuba-diving destination, the Schillings decided to open a beach bar. In 1964, after a kitchen and a covered patio, which doubled as a dining area, were built, El Bulli transformed into a restaurant.
The restaurant served only simple dishes at first, but as Dr. Schilling began to grow more interested in experimenting, and brought more and more ideas back from his travels, the dishes became increasingly elaborate. By the time Jean-Louis Neichel arrived to take up the position of head chef in 1975, El Bulli had grown from strength to strength--and it wasn't long before the restaurant won the first of its three prestigious Michelin stars the following year.
Ferran Adria, the man who has achieved renown as the owner and creative force behind the El Bulli restaurant over the past twenty years, first joined the restaurant in 1984. When then-head chef Jean-Paul Vinay announced that he was leaving to open a restaurant in Barcelona, Ferran and a colleague, Christian Lutaud, had also been in the midst of talks to set up a restaurant of their own. They were finally persuaded to stay, however, and the duo took over as El Bulli's chefs de cuisine.
1987 saw supervision of El Bulli's kitchen pass solely into Ferran's hands, as Christian Lutaud left to open a new restaurant. During this time, Ferran had become increasingly engrossed in his cooking, and in 1990, he committed himself fully to El Bulli by buying the Schillings' stake in the restaurant. That same year, El Bulli was awarded its second Michelin star.
The nineties marked a period of rapid evolution for El Bulli--a period in which it developed the unique approach to gastronomy that has set it above and apart every other restaurant. In particular, a series of courses that Ferran and his team started conducting in 1994 forced them to analyze their own work in a very rigorous, almost scientific manner. This avant-garde, experimental approach to food intensified and really took off during the nineties, culminating in the Michelin Guide's conferral of their highest honor upon Ferran's restaurant in 1997--the third and final Michelin star.
Unfortunately, in spite of the long waiting lists of people wishing to dine there every year, El Bulli has been operating at a loss since 2000. This, undoubtedly, is one of the major factors involved in Ferran's decision to close his restaurant. In El Bulli: Cooking in Progresss, filmmaker Gereon Wetzel shows extensive behind-the-scenes footage of Ferran at work, both during the six-month period when the restaurant is closed, and also in the kitchen of El Bulli itself. While Ferran has plans to reopen El Bulli in the future as an educational academy, Wetzel's film may well stand as the final filmed record of a culinary institution destined to go down in history.
EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS played to a sold-out sneak preview in Stamford, Connecticut on July 13th. The event was covered in "Serious Eats" by Jessica Leibowitz. To read her article and see more of her photos from the event, click here.