When I’m not reviewing movies, I either watch professional wrestling or cooking shows (go Top Chef!). I’ve been doing a lot of cooking at home these past several weeks and the goal is simply finding new techniques and be smarter about preparing food. After watching Abby Ainsworth’s documentary Stage: A Culinary Internship, I’m going to keep watching films and forego a career as a professional chef. I just don’t have the discipline to be a Michelin-star chef…or be a Roger Ebert for that matter (am I right?).
Stage takes place in the green hills of Spain at the secluded restaurant called Mugaritz. At the helm is two-Michelin-star chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and Mugaritz is considered one of the top ten restaurants in the world. The film is about the tradition known as “Stage.” Every year, thousands of culinary students intern at the best restaurants in Europe, and for nine-months, they work like dogs without pay as interns. During that time, their endurance is tested, their skills are honed, and if they survive, they walk away with invaluable experience and potentially a job.
“…their endurance is tested, their skills are honed, and if they survive…”
While at other restaurants, interns are abused in a Hell’s Kitchen-type setting, Mugaritz’s approach is to open the minds of its interns towards creativity and breaking down an ingredient to a single molecule. The film follows several students like Kim, who wants to be the best chef in his home country of South Korea and then the world. Powel is from Poland and tattooed a Michelin star to his right arm. He had only a week to uproot his life and leave his family for this opportunity. From Spain, Sara made a course correction in life from graphic designer to chef and struggled to keep up. Alexandre grew up in her family’s restaurant and struggled with the highly disciplined structure of Mugaritz.
The interns start by preparing the upcoming season’s menu day-in and day-out. At the end of the nine months, the cream of the crop is asked to join Mugaritz’s research and development program, where science and creativity are combined to design the following season’s menu. This is where Mugaritz innovations in food are birthed and elevated each year.
"…unique and offers a fresh take on the kitchen environment."