Kings of Pastry: Slaves to Passion and the Pursuit of Culinary Excellence

by Clinton on May 5, 2010 Filed under On the Menu

Kings of PastryFor all you foodie fanatics out there, particularly those vulnerable to the pleasures of pastry (who doesn’t that include?), a must-see film airs in Toronto today.

Enjoying a Special Presentation at Hot Docs Festival, the documentary film Kings of Pastry screens May 5-7, 2010.

Created by award-winning documentary filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, Kings of Pastry reveals the true-life story of striving for culinary excellence by 16 French pastry chefs at the prestigious Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition (Best Craftsmen in France), held, like the Olympics, only once every four years. The winners are declared by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to be the best of the best; they stand out from an already elite class of French culinary artists with the distinction of wearing the coveted blue, white and red striped collar on their jackets.

Everything from delicate chocolates to sugar sculptures up to six feet high must not only be created within the three-day event, but then hand carried through a series of rooms until the fragile creations reach a final buffet area, hopefully still intact. You can see how those who are finally crowned victorious need not only extraordinary skill but also a little serendipity on their side.

The film, rife with personal drama, narrows in on chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School, and two other finalists, chef Regis Lazard, who attempts to reach culinary stardom for the second time after his first try crashes to the floor in disgrace, and chef Philippe Rigollot from France’s only three-star restaurant owned by a woman.

Besides sacrificing family and finances, nerves suffer terribly as these elite chefs endure constant critical scrutiny from both the eyes and palates of master judges, while, for the first time ever, being caught on camera. The event has never before given permission for filming.

Thanks to exclusive access being granted to Pennebaker and Hegedus, the dream and obsession of France’s culinary elite striving for M.O.F. top spot can be experienced by those of us whose dream may simply be to eat one of those heavenly creations of pastry.