Step Up to the Plate
“Time flies,” muses Michel Bras, peeling photographs off a bulletin board. The hawkeyed master chef is retiring from the day-to-day operation of the Michelin-recognized restaurant he built on a hill in the L'Aubrac region, 465 kilometers from Paris. This watershed event has been in the works for a while, and Bras is ready to pass the keys to his diligent and talented son, Sébastien. Letting go is never easy, though, and Michel can't help but hover as the congenial Séba sets about making his mark. Paul Lacoste's contemplative and sublime study of artistry and family is calibrated to the turning of the seasons, evoking the connection to the earth's bounty that shapes the restaurant's ever-changing menu but also the circle of life and the transition of generations. Keeping the focus on the artists rather than the patrons, Lacoste revels in the Bras's innovative experiments in the kitchen. The extended sequence of Séba reimagining a trademark recipe with local ingredients at the Bras restaurant in Japan, then accepting Michel's considered reaction and bite-by-bite critique, is an especially delicate, delicious, and touching scene. Notwithstanding the chefs' gorgeous presentations, in particular their signature salad, this lovely, unhurried film has no interest in fetishizing food. Its real, all-natural subject has to do with claiming one's place and acknowledging one's roots.