Appellate Judge James A. Stewart can overcook pasta. Maybe he'll be a grand chef one day.
"A cookbook made me want to cook. I also wanted to share moments with people to care about."
At first, Guy Martin overcooked pasta. That's what he tells viewers of Guy Martin: Portrait of a Grand Chef (Guy Martin: Une Artiste en Cuisine). He was working as a cook—and he still calls himself a cook once in a while as he talks—to support a career as a rock guitarist that wasn't going to be, and his attention turned to a career with food. Today, Martin is the chef behind Le Grand Véfour, where he replaced Raymond Oliver in 1991. The hard work and learning that made Martin a three-star chef may be reflected in the opening and closing moments, which show him teaching kids about the joys of fine dining and answering questions from them.
The cameras of Portrait follow Martin through his life. They show him both in the everyday rush of the kitchen and on one of his regular trips to Japan, where he signs menus, gives speeches, and prepares a special meal for 200. Martin's a willing subject, even willing to describe the making of his signature dish, foie gras ravioli in creamy truffle sauce. He takes you through it in detail, but you probably won't be able to make it taste just like his.
It's a profile, but that's not the main emphasis. What Portrait excels at is showing Martin's personality and thought process. In the kitchen, he can bark orders on a busy night, but he's also very attentive to detail. Just watch him tasting caviar or experimenting with a new potato dish and this becomes clear. He also has a strong visual sense for food; when he makes notes on a recipe, it's almost a drawing. There's also a sense of Martin's constantly seeking out nature—a zen garden in Japan or the gardens near his restaurant—to keep his balance.
A check of IMDb doesn't turn up this profile, but it does note that Martin is a host of Cauchemar en cuisine on French TV, which also features Gordon Ramsay.
The closeups of Martin's dishes tend to be somewhat surreal, at times looking more like alien landscapes than something you'd actually eat. Those shots of food are artistic, but I'd have preferred something that gave me the feel of actually dining in Le Grand Véfour. That's my main quibble with this short, but otherwise excellent, documentary.
Portrait is an entertaining profile that will please serious foodies and aspiring chefs.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
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