Director Éric Besnard’s charming Delicious (Delicieux) takes place in France in 1789, right before the revolution that overthrew the monarchy. Pierre Manceron (Grégory Gadebois) is the talented chef for the tyrannical Duke of Chamfort (Benjamin Lavernhe). On the occasion of a banquet for the Parisian aristocracy, Manceron adds an appetizer of his invention to the planned courses, hoping to impress. The guests praise his cooking, with the glaring exception of the appetizer, a bite-sized potato, and truffle popper named the Delicieux. But, unfortunately, these ingredients were not accepted yet by high society.
When Manceron refuses to apologize for his creation, the furious Duke fires him. Banished to a hovel in the country, Manceron gives up cooking and runs the 18th century equivalent of a gas station. He spends his days cleaning the stables while his son, Benjamin (Christian Bouillette), makes bad soup to sell to travelers. One day a mysterious woman, Louise (Isabelle Carré), shows up, demanding that Manceron take her on as his apprentice. He dismisses her, as he’s finished with cooking and there was no such thing as female chefs.
However, Louise refuses to leave and remains sitting outside in the rain. Begrudgingly, Manceron takes Louise in, even though he knows nothing about her. Together they start working on providing better fare for travelers at their rest stop, creating the foundation of what would become the first restaurant. This gets the attention of the Duke, who hasn’t eaten well since sending Manceron packing. However, when he sends his people to arrange a special banquet, the darker parts of Louise’s motives come to light.
What makes Delicious so tasty is Bresnard and co-writer Nicolas Boukhrief’s clever script that pairs social revolution with culinary evolution. By having the characters repeatedly defy the rules society imposes on them, they blaze the trail that directly leads to modern living. When you are mowing down truffle fries in a restaurant, you are participating in a centuries-old revolutionary act. How about that?
“…they start working on providing better fare for travelers at their rest stop…”
This is comforting for a social outlaw entering middle age, as these days I am less rock ‘n roll and more butter ‘n roll. While I still fight the man, I have grown to appreciate the creative mixing of ingredients and cooking styles. The comedic drama has a tasty mix going for it that the foodies will love. It is also a great portrayal of the struggle of artists to innovate against the norms imposed by the commercial titans. Funny how the tensions present on the eve of the French Revolution remain relevant even now.
Just like I have grown to appreciate gourmet dining, I also find myself relishing French cinema more now. French films always have a level of mastery present, and Delicious is top shelf right from the get. Jean-Marie Dreujou’s sumptuous cinematography gets some of the best “nature in the rain” shots I have seen in years. Deujou’s brilliant framing gets the grit and the glory of the ruins in the country where folks were forced to live.
The acting is magnificent as well. Gadebois completely kills it as Manceron. Want some proof a husky person can carry a lead in a picture? Here you are. The actor radiates artistic frustration trapped beneath stubborn defeat. Trust me, you gotta see it. Carré throws it down here like she has done in so many other movies, giving us drops of Louise to make us care but managing to keep the mystery intact. That both of these performances are by older actors should be appreciated, as there is some great talent out there waiting for good roles like this to be written for them.
Delicious is beautiful, entertaining, and achieves greatness by radicalizing eating out, from fine dining to going to the midnight burger drive-thru. Salut!
"…beautiful, entertaining, and achieves greatness by radicalizing eating out..."