So, I guess food docs are a bona fide genre now. I’ve seen a lot of food docs this year and it makes it that much harder for a single film to stand out from the pack. In The Quest of Alain Ducasse, director Gilles de Maistre follows world-renowned French chef Alain Ducasse for two years ending in the opening of his new restaurant situated across the plaza from the Palace of Versailles.
Intertwined with the restaurant opening is Alain’s quest. To travel the world finding the perfect dish. Half of the film has Ducasse traveling around the world, mostly France and Asia with a stop in Brazil. He visits his various restaurants overseas, but also visiting with the top chefs of each region and most importantly touring local farmers.
Ducasse is a great believer in local farming and using local ingredients. He believes that there is a perfect way to cook all food and he believes in the simplicity of ingredients. Food tastes best fresh from harvesting, and great care must be taken in its farming methods especially cultivation. No matter the location, each of his restaurants blends local culinary styles and local ingredients with French techniques and philosophies. To him, he defines Gastronomy as a blending of the global and local.
“…to travel the world finding the perfect dish.”
Ducasse’s journey around the world takes him to Tokyo, whose ingredients are rare and requires a chef to put his soul into each dish. In China, he visits a sturgeon farm where he claims that China now has the best caviar in the world ever since they adopted Iranian farming techniques. In the Philippines, Ducasse opened a culinary school for the disadvantaged youth giving them hope for developing usable skills after graduation. His fundraising efforts allow students to attend with free tuition and board.
The other half of the film is Ducasse pontificating about food and finding perfection. Food is something that brings all people together. To Ducasse, his approach to cooking is less about perfecting methods but more about creating memories. We all eat, and we all eat all the time. Every dish he places before you need to be memorable, something you think about for days. He tells a chef in training that although the dish he prepared the dish perfectly, it was missing that peak that elevates it above perfect.
“…an interesting person with a lot to say about food and his philosophy…”
Where does The Quest of Alain Ducasse stand in the food doc genre as a film? So far, all food doc films show food. It’s beautiful, mouth-watering, and visually whets the appetite. Beyond that, it’s a series of interest interviews and stories, and the sub-genre of food docs follow a celebrity chef or renowned restaurant.
In the final analysis, the menu of food is above average, but not great. The diversity of international food prep and technique is good as well. And Ducasse is an interesting person with a lot to say about food and his philosophy about food. Ultimately The Quest of Alain Ducasse will delight those who are interested in the subject or curious about the subject matter. Which means it will appeal to a very narrow audience.
The Quest of Alain Ducasse (2018) Directed by Gilles de Maistre. Written by Gilles de Maistre and Eric Roux. Starring Alain Ducasse.
7 out of 10 stars