Hot Docs: Kings of Pastry

Hot Docs: Kings of Pastry

Kings of Pastry is quite possibly one of the most delicious films ever committed to celluloid. France’s highest chef honour, the Meilleur Ouvrier, is awarded once every four years and is every pâtissier’s dream. Sixteen top pastry chef face three days of back-breaking competition, creating round after round of fanciful, often gravity-defying confections while a […]

Kings of Pastry is quite possibly one of the most delicious films ever committed to celluloid.

France’s highest chef honour, the Meilleur Ouvrier, is awarded once every four years and is every pâtissier’s dream. Sixteen top pastry chef face three days of back-breaking competition, creating round after round of fanciful, often gravity-defying confections while a team of meticulous judges time, inspect, and sample every morsel. This is the story of three of those hopefuls.

Filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegadus were the first people ever permitted to view the competition, let alone film it, so watching this documentary is truly a treat. The sequences in which the chef explains the edible masterpiece he is creating is akin to watching a cooking show on the Food Network, but without the step-by-step instructions. However, when the slightly imperfect recipe causes the chef to drop an entire raspberry caramel dome-shaped cake into the trash, one’s stomach simply sinks.

The competition itself is viewed from the fly on the wall perspective of strictly observance. We are invited to watch as the numerous judges in each candidate’s kitchen intensely inspects and tastes the chef’s concoctions, often simultaneously like synchronized swimmers. Tension builds as the competition draws nearer the end and chefs must carry their incredibly delicate sculptures of molded sugar to the display area; having already watched various prototypes shatter at the slightest jostle, everyone in the audience is at the edge of their seats.

Pennebaker’s style of cinema vérité continues to strive in presenting an unbiased view into a previously unseen environment. His ability to simply be a camera in a room gives audiences the experience of really being there (wherever “there” may be). The only thing that could have enhanced this viewing experience is smell-o-vision.