I love food. I know that is a ridiculous thing to say, but I do. I love food so much that I spend an inordinate amount of time online looking at food porn which is just shots of amazing food delicacies (i.e. a really tasty looking burger). Therefore I have a soft spot for movies that showcase the art of food preparation. Haute Cuisine is the latest movie to be about a super star chef who makes amazing food.
Hortense is a French chef living a quiet life on a truffle farm. One day a private car comes to pick her up. They take her to Paris and finally to the residence of the President. The old President has appointed her the position of private chef, the first woman to ascend to that position. She cooks rustic dishes with hand-picked produce. She is assisted by a young pastry chef who makes exquisite desserts. The President is very fond of her and her food and they have long talk about old-fashioned dishes. This elicits jealousy among the other chefs in the structure. They want her gone and so does the rest of President’s staff once it is found out he is in ill-health and must watch everything that he eats. Feeling oppressed by the sanctions and purposely sabotaged by the other chefs, she chooses to resign instead of endure the torture. She then gets an assignment to become the residence chef for a French delegation in Antarctica. She wants to leave her famous past behind her.
The plot doesn’t matter a whole lot. You came for the food preparation and you will get tons of it. She is framed in a picturesque French kitchen (with copper pans hanging from the walls and low sunlight shining through the windows) for most of the action and all it does is highlight how great of a cook this person is and you are not. I will never be able to cook the great dishes she cooks as she recites the recipes to herself. This makes this film an escapist fantasy. I will never be as good as Hortense nor will I ever get to taste her food, but I can watch her make it.
The only fully sketched character in the film is Hortense. Everyone else seems to be a copy of a personality type. We got the angry misogynistic male chef, the warm older president, the intrepid reporter, and the bright-eyed youngsters who look to Hortense for everything. Each type is exactly what you think they would be at any given time. Hortense, however, is a complex and surprising character. She is strong-willed, willing to stand up to the mostly male establishment with her simple jabs, and enthusiastic about her job. An example of her character is her explanation as to why she decided to join an all male crew in Antarctica. She said simply that it was good money and she can use it to buy a truffle farm. She gives no grandstanding speeches about the inequality of males and females in this world, which she would be fair to do. Instead her answer is simple and direct, yet the underlining message is: Fuck You, I can cook where I want to cook. That is the ultimate strong woman statement. Exuding feminine power without having to say it out loud. Go lady chefs!