You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Haute Cuisine

A femme Gallic country cook is elevated to the rank of the president's personal chef in scribe-helmer Christian Vincent's "Haute Cuisine," an airy comedy-drama whose preparation, with its conspicuous lack of Hollywood-style conflict and catharsis, is particularly French.

With: Catherine Frot, Jean d'Ormesson, Hippolyte Girardot, Arthur Dupont, Jean-Marc Roulot, Arly Jover, Brice Fournier, Joe Sheridan, Philippe Uchan, Laurent Poitrenaux, Herve Pierre. (French, English dialogue)

A femme Gallic country cook is elevated to the rank of the president’s personal chef in scribe-helmer Christian Vincent’s “Haute Cuisine,” an airy comedy-drama whose preparation, with its conspicuous lack of Hollywood-style conflict and catharsis, is particularly French. Catherine Frot, as close to a French Meryl Streep as creme brulee is to crema catalana, is perfect as the no-nonsense lead, and her appealing perf smooths over the pic’s somewhat unfocused screenplay. “Cuisine” sated nearly 1 million local viewers, and will also appeal to delicate foreign palettes, including Stateside, where the Weinsteins have scooped up rights.

Haute Cuisine

Never quite outright food porn, a la “Babette’s Feast” or “Eat Drink Man Woman,” Vincent’s latest does contain its fair share of beautifully prepared foodstuffs, even if, entirely in keeping with French tastes, it’s talking about food, rather than preparing or eating it, that the characters seem to savor most.

Dramatically somewhat lightweight, yet never really a comedy, this tonally peculiar concoction was inspired by the true story of Daniele Delpeuch, who was plucked from relative obscurity by then-president Francois Mitterand to be his personal chef. She was the first woman to, er, man the stoves at the Elysee Palace, the French president’s residence, which ruffled more than a few feathers in the Parisian culinary establishment.

But helmer and co-scribe Vincent starts his story on the other side of the world, in Antarctica, where Delpeuch’s fictional alter ego, Hortense Laborie (Frot), has taken a cooking job after her presidential adventure (just like Delpeuch, who clearly wanted a change of scenery). Though this material, to which the main narrative occasionally returns, sheds a little light on Hortense’s complex and tenacious character, it’s mostly an awkward framing device that doesn’t amount to much more than exotic filler in an already lean 95-minute film. The cold-colored scenes here are also riddled with inconsistent elements, such as two documakers (Arly Jover, Joe Sheridan) who supposedly hail from Australia but don’t sound remotely like it, and a large group of “friends” with whom Hortense seems to be spending no time.

The flashbacks to her time at the Elysee Palace, four years earlier, are clearly the meat of the story. From the moment of Hortense’s arrival, when she’s assigned only a young and handsome patissier, Nicolas (Arthur Dupont), as an aide, she’s in direct competition with the industrious main kitchen, headed by crabby chef Pascal Lepiq (Brice Fournier). Nicolas thinks Hortense has stolen the most interesting cooking opportunity: preparing the meals of the president (Jean d’Ormesson). But a true battle of wills fails to materialize; also missing, thankfully, is a romantic subplot.

Without a three-act structure and clear character arcs, “Haute Cuisine” advances with a mix of small human dramas and culinary catastrophes that are often resolved in a scene or two, giving the film the air of a particularly well-appointed TV series that could be extended ad infinitum, the Antarctica scenes notwithstanding.

Frot engagingly carries the proceedings, and Vincent and co-scribe Etienne Comar come up with enough trivia regarding Elysee etiquette and French cuisine to keep auds entertained. Gallic viewers will also appreciate the casting of d’Ormesson, a celebrity intellectual, as the president, and although he’s not an actor, he’s got the right gravitas for his pivotal supporting role.

Partially shot in the actual Elysee during one of Sarkozy’s state visits abroad, the pic has an authentic, classy air that’s further reinforced by a busy classical score. The rest of the tech package is also fluid, including the countless beautifully prepared dishes. The “saveurs” of the original title are “flavors” or “taste,” and there’s a clever pun in the use of “palais,” which means both “palace” and “palate.”

Haute Cuisine


Production: A Weinstein Co. (in U.S.)/Wild Bunch Distribution (in France) release of an Armada Films, Vendome Prod. presentation and production, in association with France 2 Cinema, Wild Bunch, with the participation of France 2, TPS Star, Cine Plus. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Etienne Comar, Philippe Rousselet. Directed by Christian Vincent. Screenplay, Etienne Comar, Vincent.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Laurent Dailland; editor, Monica Coleman; music, Gabriel Yared; production designer, Patrick Durand; costume designer, Fabienne Katany; sound (Dolby Digital), Cyril Moisson, Vincent Guillon, Stephane Thiebaut; assistant director, Laure Prevost, casting, Aurelie Guichard. Reviewed at Cinema Studio 28, Paris, Nov. 25, 2012. (In San Sebastian Film Festival -- Culinary Zinema.) Running time: 95 MIN.

Cast: With: Catherine Frot, Jean d'Ormesson, Hippolyte Girardot, Arthur Dupont, Jean-Marc Roulot, Arly Jover, Brice Fournier, Joe Sheridan, Philippe Uchan, Laurent Poitrenaux, Herve Pierre. (French, English dialogue)

More Scene

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream hosted by AT&T and from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. “The images and stories recognized [...]

  • Emile Hirsch, Matt SmileyEmile Hirsch hosts

    Emile Hirsch Hosts Smiley Face Art Opening at Mondrian Hotel

    Despite the rain on Wednesday night in West Hollywood, there were plenty of smiles inside the Mondrian hotel thanks to artist Matt Smiley‘s Refresh exhibition. Not only is Smiley his real last name, but several of his paintings and other pieces in the exhibit feature smiley faces. “I’ve seen more smiley symbolism lately, and I’ve [...]

  • Randall Park, left, and Constance Wu

    Constance Wu Wants Her 'Fresh Off the Boat' Co-Star Randall Park to Host the Oscars

    While the Academy may have decided to go hostless for this year’s Oscars, that doesn’t mean the rest of Hollywood has stopped thinking about who would be a good choice for the emceeing gig. Former host Whoopi Goldberg recently suggested Ken Jeong. Jeong said, when he was a guest on “The View,” Goldberg told him [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Stars Reveal Dream Guest

    'Schitt's Creek' Cast Reveals Dream Guest Stars: Oprah, Beyonce and ...

    “Schitt’s Creek” has big dreams. Dan Levy, who stars as David on the series, says his wish list of guest stars includes Oprah, Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow. “All for different reasons, none of whom we’ll get,” he cracked at the Critics’ Choice Awards. For those who haven’t caught on to the “Schitt’s Creek” [...]

  • Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bundchen

    Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen to Be Honored at UCLA Science Gala

    Science can be very glamorous. It certainly will be during Oscar week on Feb. 21 when the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES) honors Barbra Streisand and Gisele Bündchen for environmental activism at its annual Hollywood for Science Gala. “When I moved to LA, the air was unbreathable. Rivers were catching fire in [...]

  • Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells Black

    Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells Talk Snorting 'Coke' on 'Black Monday'

    “Black Monday” show creators David Caspe and Jordan Cahen divulged an intriguing detail to come later in the first season of the new Showtime comedy at its world premiere, held at the Theatre at Ace Hotel on Monday night in Los Angeles. “The fourth or fifth episode opens with a sexual harassment seminar, which very well [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content