So much suspense…over pastry? The documentary Kings of Pastry chronicles sixteen chefs as they vie for the coveted Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Best Craftsmen in France). The M.O.F. is the highest recognition a pastry chef may achieve and also the most difficult task to take on. The competition spans three days, where they will make a variety of delicacies as well as sugar sculptures that can only be remarked upon as art.
For the first time in history filmmmakers Chris Hegedus and D A Pennebaker were given complete access to the competition and a rare glimpse inside one of the most prestigious culinary competitions. Three chefs were chosen as the focal point of the documentary: Jacquy Pfeiffer, co- founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School; Regis Lazard, a second time competitor; and Philippe Rigollot, from Maison Pic, France’s only three-star restaurant owned by a woman. As the cameras follow these three men during the preparation stage the viewer is opened up to an entirely new world of desserts and the desire for absolute perfection. Before they enter the competition they know what they will prepare; the thrill is watching them try and do it on a very strict time clock. Then there are the sugar sculptures. The elaborate, decorative, and remarkable creations that are incredibly delicate. One false step, quick movement, or even slight sway can bring them tumbling to the ground. There destruction is also the crush of the hopes and dreams, and hard work, the chefs have put into the competition.
As the film moves into the competition portion the real drama begins. We have become accustomed to television reality shows revolving around cooking competitions. They have absolutely nothing on Kings of Pastry. As I sat in the theater, I found myself so moved, scared, and practically jumping out of my seat at the suspense, I had to share the experience with someone. Luckily the woman next to me felt the same way and we were able to experience the adventure together. Yes, adventure. That is what it was like watching this film – an adventure. The final moments will have your heart racing. It is gripping, full of suspense, and raw emotion. These men dedicate themselves to the love of their craft, experiencing their dreams fulfilled, or obliterated, is beyond description.
Kings of Pastry is a remarkable achievement in documentary filmmaking as the investment you feel from the moment it begins up to the final climactic seconds when the winners are announced is unprecedented. You gain a level of respect for these men you never thought possible, as well as feel for them beyond plausible expectations. Pastry may be the backbone of the film but what keeps it together is the powerful stories of these three men as they embark on making their dream become reality.
Kings of Pastry was screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival, 2010. The film is set to be released in theatres on September 15, 2010.