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June 28, 2017

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New film highlights Spain's elBulli

NEW YORK--For a foodie, the new film about Spain's renowned elBulli restaurant is a bit like an Angelina Jolie movie for a teenage boy.

That boy's never going on a date with Angelina. And sorry, dear foodie, but you're never gonna eat at elBulli.

Well, at least 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, may not be for everyone. But for those passionate about the artistry and indeed the science of cooking, it's dangerously close to porn.

And for some, perhaps close to tragedy, too. Co-owner and chef Ferran Adria announced earlier this year that on July 30 he will close his restaurant, a winner of three Michelin stars and countless other honors. Citing financial struggles and a need to regroup after years of exhausting work, he said elBulli would become a think tank and research facility.

German filmmaker Gereon Wetzel had no inkling of this when he shot his film, training his cameras on elBulli's creative team for 10 hours-plus per day, a week at a time, over 15 months in 2008 and 2009.

But the news, which came during editing, didn't change his goal, which was to show the laborious, indeed painful, process of creating art — in this case, edible art, dishes for an ever-changing menu of 30 to 50 courses that can take three, four, maybe five hours to eat, for 50 lucky diners a night. Just a few names give you a sense of their unique nature: A gorgonzola tree. A parmesan crystal. A coconut sponge. Iced peppermint. "Vacuumized" mushrooms.

Or vanishing ravioli — with a pasta envelope, coated in maltodextrin that literally disappears in front of your eyes.

"What fascinated me was the process," Wetzel said in an interview this week from his home in Munich. "How do they do it? What does it take to get to these ideas?"

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