An important transition takes place for celebrated chef Michel Bras and his legendary three-Michelin Star hotel-restaurant. Born and raised in the picturesque Aubrac region of central southern France, Michel started his career in the kitchen of his parents' inn before taking over the business and winning his stars. His dishes, including signature dish Le Gargouillou – an assemblage of 40 to 60 vegetables, herbs, leaves and flowers – reflect the produce of the region and the changing seasons. Now the time has come to hand over the reins to his son, Sébastien, who has worked alongside his father for 15 years.

A tasty insight into the end of an era.

Patrons should be warned
to eat heartily prior to viewing this film lest your hunger pains prove
crippling mid-session.

Director Paul Lacoste has clearly taken the culinary style of his
subjects as his own artistic template. Like the dishes for which
legendary father-son chefs, Michel Bras and Sébastian Bras are famous, Step Up to the Plate is an elegantly simple work, yet softly layered and richly rewarding.

Michel Bras has been one of the leading international chefs for several
decades. He is renowned for creating exquisite presentations from the
produce of his ancestral home, in the Aubrac region of south France;
his signature dish, a salad plate (that meagre description hardly
suffices) is comprised of dozens of different vegetables, leaves, herbs
and flowers called Le Gargouillou. It is world famous and its
composition is beautifully captured in Lacoste’s documentary for time

Michel is on the verge of retirement and his son, the equally talented
but individualistic Sébastian, is about to take over the family
business. Over the course of Michel’s final year in charge (the passage
of time captured by seasonal title-cards), Lacoste follows the men as
they prepare for the transition of responsibility.

There is plenty of kitchen footage, of course; patrons should be warned
to eat heartily prior to viewing this film lest your hunger pains prove
crippling mid-session. But the underlying drama of Step Up to the Plate
is in watching the intricate hierarchal psychology play out within the
context of a family business that is generations old. Lacoste, making
his factual feature debut, examines the legacy of gastronomic prowess,
of the Bras’ heritage and connection to the land and its customs.
Interviews with Michel’s elderly parents offer forceful opinion on the
recipes of the multi-generational Bras boys; Sébastian’s own son, not
yet 10 years old, is seen being home-schooled in the kitchen, just as
his forefathers were.

It would have been a more rounded film if the influence of Michel’s and
Sébastian’s wives were integrated more fully. Both are afforded
perfunctory screen time and it is only vaguely suggested that these two
strong-willed women played any significant role in their husband’s
success. An extended sequence that follows the men to Japan for a
teaching engagement is interesting but overlong (we learn that great
chefs are bad at karaoke, too). Also a shortcoming is some heavy-handed
symbolism employed for a largely-wordless sequence in which Michel is
seen watching the sun setting as some 'young bulls’ in a nearby paddock
eye him off.

Those shortcoming s aside, the essence of the journey and the strength
of the two key personalities stays potent throughout. The fading into
legend of Michel and the emergence of a new force in Sébastian,
structured within the complexities of the paternalistic dynamic, makes
for enriching, compelling drama. That it also becomes a testament to the
mercurial touch of a food-making maestro is really just the icing on
the cake.

Related videos


1 hour 30 min
In Cinemas 29 November 2012,