COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 52min (French with subtitles)
STARRING: Grégory Gadebois, Isabelle Carré, Benjamin Lavernhe
Eating room service: Carré and Gadebois
Pierre Manceron (Gadebois) is a master chef for a noble house who likes to colour outside the culinary lines, which isn’t the brightest idea in the pre-Revolution France of 1789. When a dainty potato-and-truffle appetiser he concocts goes over like a lead balloon at a banquet hosted by his effete boss (Lavernhe as the Duc du Chamfort), Manceron is summarily fired and must plod to a ramshackle country inn where he glumly pounds nails and swears off cooking forever. Only after a persistent would-be apprentice shows up (Carré as Louise) does he eventually reconsider, but not before putting her through hoops that would deter many a lesser femme. It’s just as well strong-mindedness is her middle name since Manceron and Louise would soldier on to create the priceless gift of France’s first restaurant.
Ingredients are only half the fictional story of director Éric Besnard’s sweet pastoral treat; it’s in the holy details that Manceron’s leap of faith lives and breathes. His dedication to his craft, the bond he forges with fellow survivor and keeper of secrets Louise, the setbacks that divide, unite and compel them and a painterly setting that makes everybody look good enough to eat. And that’s before we set eyes on the actual food, oh my. From Manceron’s elaborate creations to his egalitarian ideal of “an eating room” for everyone in a country where the rich are stuffed Strasbourg geese while the hoi polloi go hungry, the dishes are edible art and the chef’s one-upping of the man who exiled him is the creme on a velvety slice of cake.