Precision and the Palate
An exquisite red rose fills the screen. A hand with a dropper comes within our view, emptying a few drops of an unknown liquid onto the flower. Within a matter of seconds, we are presented with a delightful dish of food featuring the rose petals that looks almost too beautiful to eat. We are about to embark on a behind the scenes adventure to the world’s most acclaimed restaurants and an incisive unmasking of the master chefs who command these haute cuisine establishments.
Over the last two decades, food has ceased to become merely a means for survival or to satiate hunger. Culinary arts have grown into a cultural phenomenon focusing on elevating our senses through taste, texture and ambience. The science of good eating has become exceedingly popular.
In Michelin Stars, Director Rasmus Dinesen takes on a glorious journey across continents from North America to Europe to Asia. We relish the magnificent scenery of San Sebastián, Copenhagen and Paris. On our travels, we meet the most celebrated chefs from New York City, France, Germany, Denmark and Japan, most of whom have achieved rock star status in the culinary world. They have dedicated their lives to perfecting not only the dishes they create, but also an exceptional dining experience for their guests. Aside from their culinary skills, what all these chefs all have in common is the importance of obtaining or keeping the one, two or three star rating in the Michelin Guide.
The Prestige Associated With The Michelin Guide
Dinesen lays out the history of the Michelin Guide, the criteria and the problems that have been encountered when using this 115 year-old rating system. Instead of just flooding us with facts, however, Dinesen is able to make this biography quite dramatic. We are riveted by the stories of those chefs whose life dreams were saved only after they had been awarded a favorable rating in the guide. Conversely, we are saddened and frustrated by the tales of those who lost a star and subsequently struggled to regain their guests’ patronage.
The candid conversations with the chefs and the stunning cinematography of not only the food but also the locales elevate this documentary, in this writer’s opinion. The commonality among the chefs in Michelin Stars is the striving for perfection. Each chef, however, has a slightly different take on what perfection means to him and that is what makes these interviews so engaging.
Art on a Plate
It’s a testament to this film that even though we are unable to taste the delicacies before us, we still feel like a guest at one of these fine establishments eager to be transported through these delectable works of art.
In Michelin Stars, chefs are portrayed as artists painting on a canvas, but instead of paintbrushes we have knives and a plate replaces the canvas. The precision and pride we witness makes this documentary more of a character study than a series of interviews.
The Dark Side Revealed
Contrasted with the allure of the locations and the artistry of the dishes is the ugly truth that this level of perfectionism leads to high rates of suicide and abuse in the culinary industry. Coupled with the importance of obtaining the all –important Michelin star or stars, the self-induced pressure on these chefs is monumental. Dinesen does not shy away from exploring the more tragic repercussions of this industry.
Michelin Stars will appeal to foodies and non-foodies alike, as it explores human nature and the passion that fuels the need for perfection. As one chef professes, “I don’t work as a chef, I live as a chef.”
Watching this film will also leave you very hungry. Bon Appetite!
Director: Rasmus Dinesen
Screenwriters: Rasmus Dinesen, Carsten Holst
Cast: Michael Ellis, Alain Ducasse, Rene Redzepi, Andoni Aduriz, Daniel Humm
Composer/Music – Rune Funch
Editor – Martin Munck Schmidt
Cinematographers – Rasmus Dinesen Jesper, Jarl Becker
Premiered at the 2018 Woodstock Film Festival. Visit the Woodstock Film Festival website for more information.
Photo courtesy of Michelin Stars - Tales from the Kitchen film
About the Author:
Rachel Errington is a New York-based actor, producer and writer, originally from Los Angeles. She recently produced and performed in “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” a short film headed for the festival circuit. Rachel graduated from Northwestern with a degree in Theatre. Favorite roles include Beatrice from “A View from the Bridge,” and the title roles in “Medea” and “Miss Julie.” You can learn more about Rachel at www.rachelerrington.com.