Movies probably lack adequate sensory capacity to capture the cooking at Mugaritz, a celebrated restaurant in Errenteria, Spain, started by the chef Andoni Luis Aduriz. In “Stage: The Culinary Internship,” the menu is described as “a sequence of provocations.” Aduriz’s inventions have included “live cannelloni” (which looks like it could grow at the base of a tree) and “mallow with sake perfume.” A protégé says he was challenged to concoct a dish that “looks like it needs a condom.” The movie ends with a server bringing penicillium-rotted apples to a table.
To this milieu of edible Surrealism, the film, directed by Abby Ainsworth, applies the standard format of the competition documentary, following unpaid trainees over a nine-month internship (or “stage,” pronounced the French way) at Mugaritz. Some will quit under pressure; an elite subset will stay and devise dishes during the restaurant’s research-and-development season.
Who will make the cut? Pawel, from Poland, already has a tattoo of a Michelin star. Sara, from Spain, harbors inklings of impostor syndrome. Near the end, Kim, from South Korea, worries that the apprenticeship has turned him into a Mugaritz clone, diminishing his originality.
Considering the imagination underlying Mugaritz’s cuisine, “Stage” takes a disappointingly conventional approach. The time-limited nature of the internship gives the documentary a clear exit point; the contrast of personalities has grown familiar from TV. Cooking that makes diners uncomfortable hasn’t inspired comparable creativity of cinematic form. “Stage” makes you want to eat, not watch.
Stage: The Culinary Internship
Not rated. In English and Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 18 minutes. Watch on virtual cinemas.