Movie Review: ‘THE QUEST OF ALAIN DUCASSE’ – Do you know the Michelin Man?

Chef Alain Ducasse in THE QUEST OF ALAIN DUCASSE. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

THE QUEST OF ALAIN DUCASSE

Not Rated, 89 minutes
Directed by: Gilles de Maistre

Food is essential to survival. Our bodies should be treated as temples – and that includes respecting the food that goes into them. No one understands the impact of cuisine more than  multiple-Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse. Not only has he wowed patrons of his restaurants all over the world, he also still considers himself a student of world cuisine. Director Gilles de Maistre’s THE QUEST OF ALAIN DUCASSE captures a master at the height of his game, continuing to mature his special skills and satiate his insatiable pallet. This documentary is an exquisite look at an industry innovator, thriving on the rush of delicious cuisine and other chefs’ passion for cooking. Be forewarned that a second-hand rush of exhilaration and inspiration will occur – as will a hunger for haute cuisine.

The brisk-moving film spans a two year time frame, following the master chef across the globe as he expands his trade and taste buds. Its spine is his dinner at Versailles for 650 people – a hundred and fifty of them being ambassadors. You know, what Ducasse would call “a Tuesday.”

Chef Alain Ducasse in THE QUEST OF ALAIN DUCASSE. Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Ducasse, who oversees 23 restaurants world-wide, is equally as fascinating as his ingenious food presentations. He’s an unassuming, unflappable gentleman with an undying passion for learning, constantly in search of purity, elegance and excellence. He finds renewable vitality in his curiosity. He’s all about reshaping tradition. He candidly confesses that his “quest is in tasting things he hasn’t tried.” And when he does taste something unique, like a Japanese pastry, he gives a critique I could only hope to give a film someday, “it goes from unsettling to reassuring.”

As we come to learn from de Maistre’s film, the industry pioneer is also notoriously secretive and humble, never bringing up past accomplishments (like his numerous Michelin stars, or his culinary “Hail Mary” of taking over chef Joël Robuchon’s position). Yet the filmmakers also show the most famous chef in the world to be shockingly accessible and completely measured. Unlike the puff pastries he samples throughout this film, this documentary is no puff piece. It shows a humble man yearning to teach his craft to those he sees as future mentors themselves. He’s empowering the next leaders, which feels like a fresh taste of inspiration.

In addition to the food porn on display, there are teachable moments for audiences as well. His philosophy about eating “glocal” (i.e. global and local) shines through. It also won’t feel like a retread for foodies already in the know. For instance, Ducasse travels to a sturgeon farm in China to see how his favorite caviar is farmed. In short, it’s a wild segment – and might make you crave a tin for yourself.

Grade: B+

THE QUEST OF ALAIN DUCASSE (La quête d’Alain Ducasse) is in Theaters, On Demand, iTunes and Amazon on June 8.

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