Food on film is something that is tricky to get right. It is something that has evolved over time and in recent years, we have seen some tremendous advances with films like Chef, Chocolat and The Hundred-Foot Journey. Filming food preparation, cooking and making food look appealing is not easy to do. Fortunately, new French film Delicious delivers something new, with the food being presented as art and the chef’s who cook it as serious artists. We have dabbled in this in cinema before, however, it feels fully realised here – beautiful, tasty and delicious.
The film is set during the French revolution in 1789, artist and Chef Pierre Manceron (Gregory Gadebois), who serves as the in-house chef for Duke Chamfort (Ben Lavernhe) has created ‘The Delicious’, a homemade pastry mixed with slices of potato and truffles. The result is hard to describe, but it is safe to say, don’t see this film on an empty stomach. ‘The Delicious’ and many other mouth-watering delights are served to Chamfort’s cohort of wealthy friends and family.
After a scuffle with a disgruntled guest, Manceron is fired and returns to his father’s home to open his own restaurant to serve food to commoners. In comes Louise (Isabelle Carre), a jam maker who wants Manceron’s student. After a game of reluctance on Manceron’s part to be a mentor, he is in with a chance to return to Chamfort’s good graces and get his old job back. Manceron’s son Ben (Lorenzo Lefebvre) hopes his father will continue his own restaurant and experiments with food.
The time period this film is set in explores the different relationships people had with food. Food was almost always cooked at home or at an inn when travelling. There was no eating for pleasure or for a night out, which is explained through an odd title card and the plot takes a bizarre turn in explaining the opening of the world’s first restaurant. There are a couple of weird subplots like Louise trying to escape from her old life as a prostitute that just seems tacked on. While this part didn’t really work for me, it does offer some drama on top of the food story.
The performances from Gadebois and Lavernhe are the clear standouts here. A tortured artist who just wants to create, thrust into the world of the rich and unable to adapt, is great to watch unfold. Similarly, Lavernhe is the proper Duke trying his best to keep up appearances. Their strained relationship and attempting to come back together again to form a mutually beneficial partnership is captivating to watch on-screen. Carre feels a little out of p1lace here and it feels odd that her character takes such a turn. Her original intentions and desires that shift during the course of the film are also odd.
The cinematography by Jean-Marie Dreujou is absolutely stunning. While there are beautiful shots of mouth-watering food that will make you want to reach into the screen and pluck them out, Dreujou also focuses on the countryside. The film is set in France, and the beautiful sweeping shots of the landscape collides with the food to create something truly unique.
Delicious does a great job of combining food, stunning locations, and some great performances from its two leads. Diving into the world of 17th-century food and looking at privilege and wealth during this time is a fascinating exploration. This reaches a certain point and then dives into the “creating the first-ever restaurant” story, which is a little jarring. If you want to take your parents or grandparents to the cinema this summer, this is your pick to win brownie points. It has all the ingredients for a successful film, it just gets a little lost midway.