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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
A French movie concentrating upon haute cuisine, who would have thought? Eric Besnard’s historical drama plays absolutely on the idea that cooking and serving food are as French as the Eiffel Tower. It also helps that the film is set in the late 1780s, which brings in the whole idea of the imminent change to the social order. Revolution is another great French pastime.
Another theme is the old tension between Paris and the regions. Paris is more than just the capital, it is a world unto itself and a whole attitude of mind, and the provinces will always feel both more authentic and yet somehow resentfully lesser to that great city.
The main character is Pierre Manceron (Gregory Gadebois). He is a brilliant chef who cooks for the foppish Duke de Chamfort (Benjamin Lavernhe) and his circle. Early on, it is established that Pierre’s skill is being hijacked to make the vain and cruel Duke look good. When some of his silly aristocratic friends criticise a banquet, the Duke feels personally shamed and immediately takes it out on Pierre by dismissing him. Pierre is stunned but accepts his lot.
In a year or so, the corrupt aristocracy will be swept aside in the Revolution. However, Pierre is not a natural revolutionary. Instead, he sets up in a wayside tavern where news of the brilliance of his cooking soon gains him great esteem in the region. At this point, the insouciant and mysterious Louise (Isabelle Carre) strolls into his life. She has a past which she chooses not to share. However, she is determined to become his apprentice and sous chef. We see immediately that there is chemistry between them but they firmly put that aside to get on with the business of building the reputation of their establishment.
Visually, the film is lush and detailed as you would expect, and the characters have charm. We are with safe hands with Gadebois; one of those character actors that never fails to get work, and equally never fails to deliver. Carre too, is well cast and enjoying her role.