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Step Up to the Plate
     

Step Up to the Plate

Director: Paul Lacoste, Sebastien Bras, Michel Bras, Veronique Bras

Cast: Paul Lacoste, Sebastien Bras, Michel Bras, Veronique Bras

 
French chef Sébastien Bras prepares to take over the world-renowned restaurant of his father, Michelin three-star chef Michel Bras. ~ Tracie Cooper

Overview

French chef Sébastien Bras prepares to take over the world-renowned restaurant of his father, Michelin three-star chef Michel Bras. ~ Tracie Cooper

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All Movie Guide
At first glance, Step Up to the Plate seems like it's just another entry in the recent mini-trend of documentaries (which include Jiro Dreams of Sushi and El Bulli: Cooking in Progress) that combine food porn with an in-depth look at the process of creating haute cuisine; only slowly does it reveal that its true subject isn't food at all but family, and how familial expectations can be both a blessing and a curse. Michel and Sébastien Bras are, respectively, a father-and-son team of chefs who together run the restaurant Bras in Laguiole in Southern France. Much is made of the fact that both men have essentially been studying to become chefs from the time they were old enough to walk and talk -- Michel learned at the foot of his mother, while Sébastien in turn learned from Michel. Sébastien speaks of how touched he was when his family said that they could only open Bras with his help, but now that Michel is getting ready to retire and turn over full control of the restaurant to him, he's feeling the pressure to match or even exceed his father's accomplishments -- which include earning a prestigious three stars from the Michelin Guide, the bible of food criticism. Over and over again, the members of the Bras family talk about how cooking is in their blood and how, to some extent, working in a restaurant was always their destiny. In one revealing interview, Sébastien's wife Véronique says that she knew marrying into the family meant that her career path was laid out for her, and that she would inherit the role of the restaurant's hostess from Sébastien's mother. Verónique seems quite content with this job, although she becomes uncomfortable when the conversation turns to the topic of whether her two young children are already being prepared for futures as chefs. She insists that her kids are free to do whatever they want with their lives, but this is juxtaposed with photos of a young Sébastien in a chef's apron and toque along with footage of her own son helping out in the kitchen. It's an intriguing question: If you were born into a family known for producing geniuses in a particular field -- Michel Bras is considered in some quarters to be France's greatest living chef -- could you really build a life in another profession? Would you want to? Director Paul Lacoste chooses to frame the documentary around Sébastien's attempts to invent a new dish from scratch over the course of a year. The film notes the changing seasons with title cards as well as outstanding footage of the natural beauty of Laguiole, which is often seen as Sébastien tours the countryside alone, deep in thought. It's not a perfect device -- it sometimes seems like Lacoste is straining to depict the restlessness and frustration of chasing creative inspiration without resorting to endless talking-head interviews -- but it does serve as a visual reminder of how Sébastien believes he needs to separate himself from his father and become his own chef in order to find success. More effective are the film's cooking sequences, which depict the step-by-step process from raw materials to finished dish without any voice-over to guide us through what's happening (only subtitles let us know what the various ingredients are). Lacoste utilizes this fly-on-the-wall approach throughout most of the documentary, and it pays off beautifully in a long sequence in which Sébastien prepares his experimental new dish for Michel, who is pointedly framed watching in the background while the son cooks. Even when it's finished, Michel can't help but offer one criticism after the next before taking a bite, while Sébastien keeps politely insisting that his father simply taste it. (Michel is impressed upon eating it, although he still has more advice regarding improvements.) It's their entire relationship in a nutshell -- Sébastien knows how much he has learned from his father, but he's also insistent that he must learn to do things his way, Michel's intuition be damned. And that's what makes the movie's ending so curiously moving. Sébastien perfects his latest work by deciding to split it into three separate dishes, which he says represent the history of his family. He finally seems at peace after he manages to finish this project, and Step Up to the Plate seems to hold this up as proof that he's become a great chef in his own right. But then the documentary closes with a shot of Sébastien watching as his father and his own son cook together. It's a measure of how well the film has explored his relationship with Michel that we can almost understand the complex mess of emotions Sébastien must feel at this moment: A note of pride, no doubt, but also a bittersweet realization that -- should his son become a chef someday too -- the profession that will connect them might eventually push them apart.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/26/2013
UPC:
0881164000620
Original Release:
2011
Rating:
NR
Source:
Cinema Guild
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Time:
1:30:00
Sales rank:
68,277

Special Features

Over one hour of deleted scenes; Interview with director Paul Lacoste; Theatrical trailer

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Cast & Crew

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Step Up to the Plate
1. Chapter 1 [:14]
2. Chapter 2 [3:53]
3. Chapter 3 [9:24]
4. Chapter 4 [4:27]
5. Chapter 5 [7:22]
6. Chapter 6 [7:28]
7. Chapter 7 [8:21]
8. Chapter 8 [8:22]
9. Chapter 9 [6:51]
10. Chapter 10 [6:17]
11. Chapter 11 [9:39]
12. Chapter 12 [9:26]
13. Chapter 13 [6:42]
14. Chapter 14 [1:34]

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