In France, female chefs rarely get to the top — and when they do, gender issues are rife. One way to deal with it is simply to ignore it, and in this story of chef Hortense Laborie (based on the real-life Daniele Delpeuch) it works. “Haute Cuisine” is the story of how she was hand-picked by Joel Robuchon to serve President Francois Mitterrand.
The mission of the feminine and refreshingly down-to-earth Hortense (Catherine Frot) is to serve “Le President” the dishes he craves. These consist of foie gras, tarts and pastries glistening with butter and loaded with calories — much to the dismay of the other chefs and the delight of the top man.
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Unfortunately, he doesn’t tell her that often enough, and Hortense finds herself alone without encouragement or moral support. After two years, she moves on to a friendlier kitchen, this time at a French scientific base in Antarctica. The film zigzags back and forth, contrasting the frosty main kitchen at the palace with the noisy, crowded cooking hub in the South Pole, where everyone raves over Hortense’s skills. The ploy is rather obvious. Frot’s performance manages to rise above this shortcoming (and others), portraying a woman determined to dedicate herself to the craft of cuisine.