Film Review – Step Up To The Plate (2012)

As the sun sets on his acclaimed career as a chef, Michel Bras reflects on how important the role has been to him. Much more than just a job, it has been an all-consuming passion, a never-ending quest for culinary perfection. This gentle French documentary charts his slow withdrawal from his fabled restaurant set in a beautiful rural location and the lessons he passes on to his capable son Sebastian.

Favouring long, lingering shots capturing the meticulous preparation of their dishes, this is a reflective, slow-burning affair, focusing its attention on the pair’s almost painterly compositions, with tiny splashes of flavour, edible flowers and miniature cuts of herbs and vegetables all part of their palette. Their food draws on countless hours of perfectionist obsession to detail, but also the warmth of childhood memories and a deep love for preparing food with care and artistry.

Gorgeously shot, Step Up To The Plate achieves a similarly calm, almost meditative mood that this year’s other great foodie portrait Jiro Dreams of Sushi pulled off. On one level, this works as an up close and personal look at life in the rarefied surrounds of an elite French fine diner, but there is something more universal and poignant at play here. It’s the story of a man finding his niche and devoting himself to something completely and, ultimately, about the bittersweet experience of having to let it all go.

Originally appeared in: Broadsheet

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