Movie review: Chef's battles with officialdom simmer in 'Haute Cuisine'
If you want a deep-dish movie about food and French politics, "Haute Cuisine" is merely an amuse-bouche, but a tasty one.
In this lightly fictionalized version of a true story, Catherine Frot stars as Hortense Laborie, a renowned chef in the Perigord region of France.
In the early 1990s, Laborie is summoned to Paris and appointed personal chef to the president, FranÃ§ois Mitterrand (played by the novelist Jean d'Ormesson), who wants authentic home cooking instead of the fancified "haute cuisine" produced by the Palace ÃlysÃ©e's main kitchen. Assigned one young sous chef (Albert Dupont), Laborie impresses Mitterrand with her food but ruffles feathers among the complacent, and sexist, palace staff.
Director Christian Vincent and co-writer Etienne Comar aim to create some tension by juxtaposing Laborie's palace experience with her stint cooking for a research outpost near Antarctica, for a contrast between haughty officialdom and roughneck appreciation.
The main joys of the film come from Frot's warm performance as the no-nonsense cook and Vincent's loving treatment of the sumptuous food.