Pacific Cinematheque: Kings of Pastry

Dates and Venue 17-19, 22-23 December 2010 | Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver

Directors: Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker
Cast: Jacquy Pfeiffer, Sébastien Canonne, Regis Lazard, Philippe Rigollot, Nicolas Sarkozy

Reviewer Kate Scallion

Kings of Pastry documents the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France  (MOF), Best Craftsmen of France, competition, which happens only once every four years. Narrowed down from 60 to 15, Kings of Pastry follows three of the chefs as they prepare for the competition.

The competition takes place in Lyon, France over three days and combines every aspect of pastry: sugar sculpting, chocolate sculpting, taste, presentation, and kitchen skills. Each competitor has his own MOF coach, helping refine the tastes, appearance, and techniques of the pieces the aspiring MOF chooses to present.

For those of you, like myself, addicted to the Food Network cake building challenges, Kings of Pastry trumps those competitions in every single aspect: skill, judging, emotional intensity, and decadent masterpieces. These men are more than bakers; they are artists. Once they have become MOFs, these men are closer to gods.

Seeing these master chefs in their homes, practising relentlessly for the competition, we become aware of how consuming their pastry passion can be when combined with pursing the ultimate title of MOF. These chefs are not unlike Olympic athletes in the sacrifices they make, the time they spend training, and the full spectrum of emotions between success and failure.

At times the movie is heart breaking – including those times when slightly imperfect creations are swept ruthlessly in to the garbage with only a bite consumed, or a slight aesthetic flaw.  You will celebrate and mourn with each of characters in their plight for pastry perfection.

Unlike other competitions, Kings of Pastry belies no false camaraderie or poor sports. The judges are as hopeful and passionate as the competitors. Every one truly does want each one to succeed, but of course, not everybody can.  Judges shed as many tears as chefs to whom casualty befalls.

The movie runs nearly an hour and a half. Filmed in French and English, it also has English subtitles dubbed under interviews completed in French.  It is an excellent documentary, providing many insights into the world of French pastry its many facets.  Thoroughly enjoyable, you will want to have lots of baking on hand to satisfy your inevitable sweets craving once finishing this film.

© 2010 Kate Scallion