STEP UP TO THE PLATE (ENTRE LES BRAS) (Paul Lacoste, 2012)
French Institute Alliance Française, Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th St. between Madison & Park Aves.
Thursday, December 6, $10, 7:00
Culinary documentarian Paul Lacoste details the handing over of a world-renowned restaurant business from father to son in the appetizing if not wholly satiating Step Up to the Plate. In 1999, Lacoste kicked off his “Inventing Cuisine” series with an inside look at gourmet chef Michel Bras, followed by episodes focusing on Pierre Gagnaire, Gérald Passédat, Michel Troisgros, Olivier Roellinger, Michel Guérard, Pascal Barbot, Alain Passard, and Nadia Santini. Ten years later, when he learned that Michel was retiring and his son, Sébastien, would be taking over, Lacoste asked if he could document the transition, resulting in the Bras family welcoming the director into their restaurants and homes, although the results are sometimes surprisingly distant and empty rather than intimate and revealing. Over the course of four seasons, Lacoste follows Michel and his wife, Ginette, and Sébastien and his wife, Véronique, and their two kids from their franchise three-Michelin-star restaurant in the Aubrac region in the south of France to the glorious, stunning Michel Bras Toya Japon situated atop a mountain in Japan. Much of the film focuses on Sébastien creating a new dish, a special request from the director; the deeply intent chef stares at the plate, knowing something is missing but not sure what it is, the camera lingering, a bit too long, on his consternation. When he ultimately brings the dish to his demanding father, Sébastien declares, “Stop looking, taste it! Food is for eating,” to which Michel responds, “But you look at it first, you know.” It is fascinating to watch just how central a role food as both reality and concept plays in this close family’s life, especially as they entertain thoughts of a fourth generation someday grabbing the reins. But while Step Up to the Plate will leave you hungry to eat at their restaurants, it will also leave you hungry for more from the film itself. Step Up to the Plate was originally scheduled to close out FIAF’s “Films for Foodies!” series on October 30 but was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy; it will now be shown December 6 at 7:00, with producer Jaime Mateus-Tique on hand to discuss the film.