How was the restaurant born? The French dramatic comedy Delicious (Délicieux) provides a fictional answer to that question.
At the dawn of the French Revolution, Pierre Manceron (Gregory Gadebois) is a master chef in the employ of the arrogant Duke of Chamfort (Benjamin Lavernhe). The Duke loves the food Manceron and his chefs prepare in the grand chateau the Duke calls home. Mind you, it is he who dictates what he wants and he doesn’t like Manceron freewheeling it. This is a time when chef-prepared dining is strictly the domain of the upper class in their homes and certainly not in public eating rooms. As Manceron and his team busy themselves preparing a sumptuous feast for the Duke and his invited guests, Manceron adds a new creation to the agreed menu. That dish contains potato.
After the meal, the Duke calls for Manceron to provide an assessment of the food served. What starts out well, quickly goes horribly wrong as the guests start mocking Manceron and his new concoction, which he names “Delicious”. Called upon to apologise, Manceron refuses. Next thing, we see him and his son leaving the estate, only to be told of the death of his father at his father’s home, where Manceron and his son take up residence.
Early on a middle-aged woman, Louise (Isabelle Carre), arrives desperate to become Manceron’s apprentice. Only, given Manceron’s shocking experience with the Duke, the former has no interest in taking up cooking again. But persistence on the part of this mysterious woman pays dividends. Mind you, she changes her back story more than once and when the real truth outs her actions put both her and Manceron in peril.
Twists – some more plausible than others – abound in Delicious. It is the work of co-writer (with Nicolas Boukbrief) and director Éric Besnard. I thought the plotting was less than convincing because there were too many fanciful elements. Still, the setting and magnificently prepared, mouth-watering dishes given loving treatment were a delight. This is yet another foodie movie that most certainly does justice to culinary sensibilities.
I also liked the representation of the two central protagonists, Manceron and Louise. A man of few words, Manceron’s gruffness gives way to vulnerabilities. During the course of the film, the power imbalance between him and Louise shifts.
There’s a decidedly feel-good, fantasy element to this offering, which will appeal to many. I found Delicious enjoyable but flawed.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.