Sun 8 Mar 2015
Did I already say that I love cooking and films about cooking? I probably did. For food lovers talking, reading, watching TV shows and – why not – seeing movies about food and the people behind food just amplifies the pleasure of enjoying good food and enriches the experience. We have been blessed with a few good movies on this topic, some older (who can forget Louis de Funes in L’Aille et la cuisse?) some recently like the American Chef with an almost identical title as the French comedy Le Chef.
We may of course expect a lot from a French film about ‘haute cuisine’ – the subject should be part of the national expertise after all. Director and script co-writer Daniel Cohen has taken the easy path with this lighthearted comedy about a famous chef (Jean Reno) who is obsessed with keeping his three Michelin stars intact and an unemployed aspirant (Michael Youn) trying to find his way in the world of high-end cooking. Everybody has a good time and especially Reno who abandons for a short while his tough guy mask and lets us know that he owns a carefully suppressed comic talent.
There is some serious background behind the light comedy which should not be omitted. Great chefs nowadays need to fight increased competition from street food and from the modern trends like ‘molecular food’ (which incidentally I hate as much as the folks who wrote the script of this film). Fighting kitsch or pretentious avant-garde artistic challenge that is not encountered only by artists in cooking but by many other fields. So are the crisis of creativity, the loss of inspiration, the need to change and do something else in certain turning points of lives and careers. None of these subjects are absent but none is explored to deeply either in ‘Le Chef’. The result in culinary terms is a ‘souffle’ – light and pleasant when eaten but not leaving persistent memories after the consumption. I mentioned the American movie ‘Chef’ which also dealt with a famous cook in some crisis in his life and career turning to street food. Well, the food in the American ‘Chef’ may not have been as classy as the food in the French ‘Le Chef’ but the film that resulted was better.