Haute Cuisine (or Les Saveurs du Palais) tells the story of Hortense Laborie, who had once been the French President’s personal chef. Through unmarked flashbacks, the film flips between Laborie’s current life as the chef at a remote Antarctic outpost, and her time as the President’s cook. Just a heads up – keep your ears open for quick changes between subtitled French and spoken English.
Laborie is portrayed by Catherine Frot, and she acts exquisitely alongside a cast of other brilliant characters. Assistant chef Nicolas Bauvois (Arthur Dupont), is charming, the President is alarmingly elderly but sweet, and the head chef of the main kitchens is perfectly unlikeable. However, a strange Australian journalist who only speaks English (though with a thick French accent) spoils the Antarctic scenes and spills you right out of the film.
Haute Cuisine is beautifully designed, filmed, and dressed. The presidential palace is resplendent, the food is gorgeous, and the Antarctic setting is true-to-life. The problem with true stories is that they aren’t always wild rides. The slower and more pointless the film, the more obvious niggling flaws become. You get a lot of time to dwell on the peculiar “Australian”, to think about the stagnant story, to dread the next montage of drizzling sauces and shining plates.
By Ilona Wallace