Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sugar Sculptures and Wedding Cakes

Last night, we watched a documentary called Kings of Pastries. The film followed a competition for master pastry makers in France. The official title is Meilleur Ouvriers de France (MOF) and apparently the competition can be done for various crafstmen. This one was the ultimate reality movie.

Sixteen bakers were in the finals, which was a 3-day competition that included making a sugar sculpture, a wedding cake and various pastries that are scrutinized, dissected and tasted by men who have previously won this award. The winners get a special red, white and blue collar. How serious is the award? Apparently, in France, if anyone who has not won the competition wears a collar like the winners, he can be arrested.
I say "man" and "he" throughout this review, because I saw no indication that women were in this competition at all. I may have been misled by the film footage, so forgive me if there were actually women who had won the prize or who were competing.
The film began with Jacquy, who is French but who runs a pastry school in Chicago. The film follows him as he prepares for the 3-day competition. It also checks in on two other bakers preparing for the competition.
One of the most amazing things about the film was watching the bakers work with sugar. They pulled it and mixed the colors to make stripes. They kept stretching it until it looked like satiny ribbon and they curled it into edible bows.

(Photos are from the movie.)

I enjoyed the documentary, but was a little disappointed that (spoiler alert. Don't keep reading if you are going to see the movie) the film didn't follow someone who actually won. More than one person can win. All 16 of the finalists could have been awarded MOF. But they weren't.
Toward the end, one man's magnificent sugar sculpture collapsed and shattered. The man turned away in defeat. The other men came to him. They patted and hugged him. They encouraged him to continue.
Then the head of the competition made the announcement of the winners, his face contorted in disappointment that not all the men had won. He took a deep breath, his eyes rolled back in his head as tears dripped down his face, "And that is the end of my list," he announced in despair.
The main character had not won. The movie didn't really explain why he didn't win, what kinds of mistakes he made. When the head of the contest was interviewed, he sighed that Jacquy had been the top competitor in the competition before the finals. Perhaps he had too many opinions from other winners and that clouded his own creations, the head of the contest said. And that was the only clue as to why Jacquy did not win.
Hmmph. I gave a little snort of derision. Even Toddlers and Tiaras picks the winners to follow most of the time. Somehow, it's easier to be happy for the winner when you've invested time in him throughout the movie.
P.S. -- Don't tell anyone that I watch Toddlers and Tiaras. That'll be our little secret.


Grace said...

There's no shame in watching Toddlers & Tiaras. Speaking of, it's on in three minutes. Meet you in the living room.

Linda said...

I saw this show advertised on French TV but never watched it. They make me nervous. I don't watch reality shows either.

Lucia said...

i watch reality shows they make me uncomfortable and have to change the channel sometimes or I cringe a little during confrontations. Oh and as for Toddlers and Tiaras yah I sneak a peak once in awhile more to watch the crazy parents then the
Whose watching Beverly Hills House Wives this season????

Paulita said...

Lucia, I'm with you. I told Tucker that I watch Toddlers & Tiaras because it makes me feel like a better parent.
Beverly Hills Housewives -- I haven't gotten there yet, but I'm sure it's a small step.

judi said...

LOL = Toddlers & Tiaras. oh. my.

I've got "Kings of Pastry" in my netflix queue. can't wait to watch it. (darn. I tried to "not read" your spoiler alert.)

Paulita said...

Sorry, Judi. It's still a surprise. Plus, it's still a pretty show to watch with lots of lyrical French

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