Sixteen French pastry chefs gather in Lyon for three intense days of mixing, piping and sculpting everything from delicate chocolates to six-foot sugar sculptures in hopes of being declared one of the best chef's by President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Imagine a scene never before witnessed: sixteen French pastry chefs gathered in Lyon for three intense days of mixing, piping and sculpting everything from delicate chocolates to six-foot sugar sculptures in hopes of being declared one of the best chefs by President Nicolas Sarkozy. This is the prestigious Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition (Best Craftsmen in France). The blue, white and red striped collar worn on the jackets of the winners is more than the ultimate recognition for every pastry chef – it is a dream and an obsession. Filmmakers D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus secured exclusive access to shoot this epic, never-before-filmed test of France’s finest artisans. The film follows chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School, as he journeys back to his childhood home of Alsace to practice for the contest. Two other finalists are profiled in the film — chef Regis Lazard, who was competing for the second time (he dropped his sugar sculpture the first time), and chef Philippe Rigollot, from Maison Pic, France’s only three-star restaurant owned by a woman. During the gruelling final competition, chefs work under constant scrutiny by master judges and the critical palates of some of the world’s most renowned chefs evaluate their elaborate pastries. Finally, these pastry marathoners racing the clock must hand carry all their creations including their fragile sugar sculptures through a series of rooms to a final buffet area without shattering them. The film captures the high-stakes drama of the competition – passion, sacrifice, disappointment, and joy – in the quest to become one of the Kings of Pastry.
D. A. (Donn Alan) Pennebaker is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of cinema vérité filmmaking. In 2013 The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized D. A. Pennebaker’s body of work with an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. In the early sixties, Pennebaker and his colleague Richard Leacock developed one of the first fully portable 16mm synchronized camera and sound recording systems which revolutionized filmmaking and helped to create the immediate style of shooting so popular today. Pennebaker is the recipient of numerous filmmaking awards including the IFP’s Gotham Award. Pennebaker made his first film, the short DAYBREAK EXPRESS, in 1953. In 1959, he joined Drew Associates, which produced for Time-Life the highly acclaimed Living Camera series in the early 1960s. The filmmakers’ subjects ranged from the Broadway debut of Jane Fonda (Jane) to President Kennedy’s presidential primary run against Hubert Humphrey (Primary), to the desegregation of the University of Alabama (Crisis). In 1967, Pennebaker released the seminal film Don't Look Back, which followed Bob Dylan’s last acoustic concert tour in England. The film broke box office records and is considered a classic of both documentary and rock filmmaking.
Chris Hegedus has been making films as a director, cinematographer, and editor for nearly 40 years. In 2001, she was awarded the prestigious Directors Guild of America Award for startup.com, an intimate buddy story filmed during the first Internet boom/bust. Together with her partner D. A. Pennebaker, Hegedus was nominated for an Academy Award for The War Room, a behind-the-scenes look at Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. The film also won the National Board of Review’s D.W. Griffith Award for Best Documentary. Hegedus is the recipient of the Golden Eagle CINE award and of lifetime achievement awards from several organizations including the International Documentary Association. Hegedus’ first collaboration with Pennebaker was as editor of Town Bloody Hall, the legendary 1971 “battle of the sexes” between Norman Mailer and feminists Germaine Greer, Jill Johnston and Diana Trilling that took place at New York City’s Town Hall Theatre. In 1977, Hegedus, Pennebaker and Pat Powell co-directed The Energy War, an acclaimed five-hour, three-part special for PBS that followed the historic legislative battle over President Jimmy Carter’s energy policy. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government cited The Energy War as “one of the best political films ever made.”