Last Monday we attended the premiere of the movie El Bulli: Cooking in Progress in Berlin. The best chef of the 2010 decade was also there to present the movie and to talk about elBulli's transformation from a restaurant into a foundation.
In Catalan, bullir means to boil, but this is actually unrelated to the restaurant's name. Alternatively, one could think that bulli comes from bull, and therefore the big bull's head in the kitchen of the restaurant. Wrong again. At elBulli, nothing is what it looks like! When it was opened as a minigolf in 1961, the original owner named it after his French bulldogs, which he used to call bulli. If you are interested, you can read about the restaurant's history and how Ferran Adrià became one of the best chefs in the world here.
Ferran Adrià himself struck me as a bull, or a bulldog, or some other sort of natural force. He is pure energy, true passion. His eyes burn with fire when something goes wrong, and shine with excitement when he finds some new dish that he knows will be a new hit. He is not interested in the press, the photos, the recordings. He is all for his creativity.
Taking this into account, closing the restaurant and establishing a foundation in which to innovate and create all year long is the natural evolution step for elBulli. Still under construction with an opening foreseen for 2013, elBulli Foundation's motto is to offer the means and the freedom to explore and design new cooking techniques, new surprising and extravagant dishes. As a scientist myself, I can only applaud this initiative. If you bring excellent people together, provide them with the proper environment, and give them enough freedom, you can surely expect great contributions from them. This is how research works, and from what I could see in the movie, Adrià's kitchen functions pretty much like a science lab.
The documentary is absolutely non-invasive. The camera stays with the team for a whole year, during both the winter research period and in summer, when the restaurant used to open to the public. After so many hours of shooting, Adrià and his team become used to the presence of the cameras, and you as a spectator have the feeling that a small window has open to elBulli's kitchen so that you can
watch those great cooks do their magic.
After the movie, Adrià said "Those people who work with me in the kitchen are common people. They are well aware of that, they know that it is what they do that is important, not who they are". Well, no doubt it is magic what they do in the kitchen. Click play below and enjoy.