The French Ministry of Labor bestows the
title, Le Meilleur Ouvrier de France, on the top craftsmen in France.
Textile designers, photographers, woodworkers, masons, graphic artists,
florists and beyond can all strive for the honor. Pastry chefs hoping
to become M.O.F.s must submit to a competition held every four years
that tests both skill in the kitchen and the artistry and taste of the
food prepared. It’s a rigorous challenge, but the select few who
succeed can wear the coveted red, blue and red neckband marking them as
one of the supreme chefs in France, if not the whole world.
Kings of Pastry explores this event deliciously.
Legendary documentarian D.A.
Pennebaker (Dont Look Back, The War Room)
and his wife, Chris Hegedus, follow chefs hoping to earn M.O.F. status,
with particular focus on Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago’s
French Pastry School. The pair observes the serious but affable
Pfeiffer through months of preparation, fine-tuning exquisite delights
under the strict, couching eyes of past M.O.F. honorees. His cream
puffs, sugar sculptures and other treats look tantalizing, but they
receive intense scrutiny. Creating the perfect pastry is hard work and
witnessing their re-working and re-testing allows for a greater
appreciation of their meticulous design.
The pressure increases when Pfeiffer
returns to his native France for further training and the event itself.
While here, Pennebaker and Hegedus turn their cameras on two other
chefs — one from France, the other from Luxembourg — vying for the
title. It’s a brilliant move.
Widening the narrative increases tension
by showing Pfeiffer’s friendly rivals, but it also reveals their
respect and camaraderie. All are in it to win it, but they pull for
each other hard. This is especially true when delicate creations fall
apart during the mentally and physically exhausting three-day
competition, shattering lifelong dreams. The affected chefs are
devastated, but equal tears flow in the eyes of their competitors. The
final M.O.F. honor eludes many of the chefs, but they leave the
competition strengthened with hearts as rich as their creations. Grade: A