Kings Of Pastry

Kings Of Pastry


Reviewed by: Val Kermode

Once every four years pastry chefs compete to win the coveted blue, white and red collar awarded to the MOF – Meilleur Ouvrier de France or Best Craftsman. It’s like the Olympics. Only harder. This film charts the progress of three of the 16 finalists as they make their way through this hallowed competition.

Jacquy Pfeiffer from the Pastry School of Chicago prepares, cooks and tests with colleagues his elaborate creations, before saying goodbye to his family and setting off for Alsace to begin an even more intensive stage of training for what will be a three day ordeal in which each chef must produce an extravagant buffet under the scrutiny of a team of judges.

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This is when we see that “pastry” includes puddings, lollies, chocolates, pulled sugar and the piece de resistance, a towering sugar sculpture on the theme of a wedding cake. The unwieldy sculpture has to be transported for display, with the nail-biting possibility that it will break into a thousand pieces. All the contestants have to produce one of these over the top creations. Jacquy has even made a special base with shock absorbers. He explains that the danger point is not when you pick it up, but when you put it down again.

Like small children with a pile of bricks, the entire audience held their breath as we waited for the inevitable to happen. A few accidents in the early stages ratchet up the tension. Then the final three days begin.

It is a wonderful comment on the French as a nation that they can take something like this so very, very seriously. One man was there for his fourth attempt, after 16 years of preparation. The judges are meticulous and obsessive, timing every move, knocking off marks for crumbs left on work surfaces. Just one raised Gallic eyebrow can mean the difference between success and failure.

On the last day of the contest, as one young man sthe final touches to his flower-bedecked sculpture, the whole thing comes crashing down. In the packed cinema there was one huge spontaneous “AAAAHHH!” The rest of this cleverly made film you will have to see for yourself. Not all the finalists gain their collars, but there were some surprises.

As I left the screening, I overheard someone say “I thought it was a bit too long”. But then the criticism turned to praise as she added “I couldn’t hold my breath any longer.”

Reviewed on: 07 Nov 2009
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An American pastry chef travels to France to enter the Olympics of cooking, in pursuit of a red, white and blue collar from the Meilleur Ouvrier de France.
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Director: Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker

Year: 2009

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: USA, UK, Netherlands

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