German documentary maker Gereon Wetzel chronicles a year in the life of El Bulli, the legendary modernist-cuisine restaurant in Spain that served its final 30-course meal in July 2011. A friend of mine described this video as "barely tolerable," but I found it to be an organic and hypnotic account of El Bulli's notoriously intense and complex creative process. Wetzel begins in 2008 with the annual six-month research phase at the restaurant's Barcelona laboratory, then follows the six-month service season at the restaurant itself on the Costa Brava, during which dishes continue to evolve from pure distilled flavors like mushroom and sweet potato into highly refined presentations such as "minted ice lake" and "vanishing ravioli." Senior chefs Oriol Castro and Eduard Xatruch labor to impress master chef Ferran Adria with new techniques, flavor and texture combinations, and ultimately finished dishes; Adria, who rarely so much as touches a knife or a thermal circulator, offers muted approval or withering dismissal. "Did you try this?" he says to one chef. "It's simply bad. Don't give me anything that's not good." In Catalan with subtitles.
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress