El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2010)

  • Year: 2010
  • Released: 15 Sep 2011
  • Country: Germany
  • Adwords: 1 win & 1 nomination
  • IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1696535/
  • Rotten Tomatoes: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/el_bulli_cooking_in_progress
  • Metacritics:
  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: Catalan, French, Spanish, English
  • MPA Rating: Unrated
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Runtime: 108 min
  • Writer: Anna Ginestí Rosell, Gereon Wetzel
  • Director: Gereon Wetzel
  • Cast: Ferran Adrià, Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch
  • Keywords: cooking, restaurant, food, french cuisine, fine dining,
60% – Critics
50% – Audience

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress Storyline

For six months of the year, renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adrià closes his restaurant El Bulli and works with his culinary team to prepare the menu for the next season. An elegant, detailed study of food as avant-garde art, EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS is a tasty peek at some of the world’s most innovative and exciting cooking; as Adrià himself puts it, “the more bewilderment, the better!”—Anonymous

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El Bulli: Cooking in Progress Movie Reviews

Distant and Emotionless

As an aspiring foodie myself, I found this documentary to be inspirational and thought-provoking; the sheer creativity and thought processes that goes into creating a dish is mind-blowing. However,there are flaws, I couldn’t help feeling disengaged and a certain disconnect from the whole thing; while the documentary did a great job of capturing every colourful and beautiful moment, but documenting every moment doesn’t make a great story. It felt very systematic and machine-like and didn’t seem like there was any attempt to tell a decent story. What drives Ferran Adria? Who inspires him? How did his underlings feel about working for him? None of these human facets were touched upon so the documentary alienates the audience because it doesn’t engage on an emotional level. The people you see there in the film chopping, slicing, infusing, cooking seem so far away that they might as well be on a different planet. Also, Adria comes across as a egotistical and arrogant prick who doesn’t seem to actually enjoy food but sees cooking as merely a means to an end. Although he spouts deep descriptive phrases, they don’t actually mean anything because he’s so cold, stoic and passionless. He criticises everything and focuses only on the negatives, not once does he say anything positive and encouraging to the people who develop his dishes 24/7. Speaking of which, I’m more interested in the story of Adria’s head chef Oriol Castro, he actually has passion for what he does and he seems like a great leader.

Interesting and disappointing at the same time

Visiting El Bulli was in my bucket list until they closed their doors in 2011 and became a food lab. As you can imagine, I was looking forward to seeing this documentary. Unfortunately, after watching, I got a bitter-sweet after-taste in my mouth.


One of the things I enjoyed the most about this restaurant is seeing all the process of experimentation that leads top restaurants and world-class chefs to create a new menu every year, and the hard work and endless hours behind both the experimentation and the work in the restaurant.

In the era of the MasterChef cooking shows, where food and cooking appear as a colorful, beautiful, creative and unrealistically flamboyant, the reality and every-day of a restaurant in general, and of a world-top restaurant in particular, is far from that bubble of flashy glamour that we see on TV. There is a lot of preparation, a lot of strenuous and hierarchical work, of endless working hours, of constant trial-error and improvement, exhausting and far from everything that is really unflashy. You need a passion for food and for restoration to devote your life to that profession, especially because in top restaurants failure is not an option, tempo is a mathematical thing, bad service is unthinkable, top quality preparation and presentation the norm. In that regard, this documentary captures that perfectly, and I think one gets to understand better and respect even more the work that any top chef does, in this case Adria.


The documentary is filmed with a Germanic eye, lacking passion or interest in the figure of Adria. Who is this guy? Where does he come from? What sort of cooking was he cooking before he became El Bulli head chef? Who does he consider his masters? Who are his sous-chefs? Also, there is a bunch of local and international workers arriving to work at El Bulli, why not asking them what drove them there? What is what they find intriguing or admirable in Adria and his restaurant? On the other hand, we don’t see the human side of any of these people. Do they have families? Do they cook at home? What do they eat at home? Do they have foodie trips? Are they best pals with this and that top chef? These and other questions seem not to interest the director, which is a pity because they are the sort of things that interest viewers in general, especially those who aren’t familiar with one of the master genius of modern cuisine.

I’m not saying that the documentary is not interesting, because it is, but it lacks background, it lacks depth and color, and it lacks the passion that drives Adria in anything he does. Really, they could have filmed this in any medium-range restaurant and that would have been interesting the same. Yet, why bother going to El Bulli and focusing on the purely observational?

Now that El Bulli doesn’t exist any more, this documentary appears to be even more lacking and imperfect as it does not honor the genius, it does not help viewers understand why Adria is one of the genius of Western cuisine or who this person really is.

I will personally be looking for other documentaries for TV and the cinema produced about Adria in 2011.

Some Great Footage but Failed to Explain the Genius

The strength of “El Bulli: Cooking in Progress” was that it gave you a very good idea of what it would be like to work there. There was extended footage of the restaurant in operation, but more time was spent observing the creative process of Adria’s team as they spent 6 months in their Barcelona laboratory, experimenting with food stuffs and techniques as they developed the menu of new creations for El Bulli’s next season. The significant weakness of the film was that the director failed to take advantage of this unique opportunity to explain Adria’s philosophy and genius. While you came away with an understanding of some of that genius, you came away with way too much time spent watching Adria as he tasted and made notes on the many experiments. But still, for the majority of us who never ate at El Bulli, it was a great opportunity to experience the place and its food preparation and presentation, at least visually, from ringside seats!