Documentary chronicling the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition, in which 16 French pastry chefs battle in hope of being declared one of the best by the country's President.
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CHANT: Bravo! Bravo!
The idea in France is to eat the best,
the best possible on a daily basis, but just in small quantities,
so your brain is happy every day.
You know? You don't starve yourself and then you eat like a pig
at the all-you-can-eat on Saturday night. That doesn't exist.
They don't exist, all-you-can-eat, in France.
I'm in the final, so, I pass, you see?
I, sort of, out of 60... there was even 70 candidates.
16... 16 out of 70 chefs got to go to the final. OK?
It's a competition and, at the same time, it's an exam, because more than one person can get the title.
Everybody could get it. But it's not going to happen.
I'm working on two puffs today.
The orange hazelnut and...the exotic one.
And you don't want to do that, because you want to see the jam.
You just want something that complements everything else.
Not to take over. I have to decide which one I want to win.
A cream puff is something very basic,
so you got to keep it basic, but you've got to dress it up,
so it's beautiful without doing too much fou-fou stuff around, OK?
Let a cream puff be what it's supposed to be, OK?
HE SPEAKS TO THE INTERVIEWER IN FRENCH
I'm looking for the right look.
Let me show you around, huh?
This is the only school in the country that only teaches pastry.
'When Sebastien and I started the school 12 years ago,
'we were the only teachers.
'So we had all the classes.'
Smell is easy, OK?
To explain. A lot easier than sight.
smells good, or smells bad. Right? Obviously.
But with people that do crappy food,
they create smell you'll never believe,
to put in things where it doesn't belong to please you. OK?
-We got to get rid of those people.
'Stephane Glacier, an MOF, is teaching a three-day class.
But look. Look, look.
Look. The chiffon is like this, there's sugar everywhere.
Your table is a mess. OK?
OK, make your clean bag and I'm going to show you again.
It's a mess everywhere.
'The Meilleurs Ouvriers de France is about showing every day'
what you believe the best that can be done,
in teaching or in producing a product. Every day.
Every day, you put back your title.
Because, the collar we wear, we are the only chef allowed to wear these collars.
If you wear those collars and you're not, you can go to jail.
Anybody ready for macaron here?
Anybody ready for macaron?
See? I'm making some room for you.
I go home, I do that for my daughter.
I come here, I do that for you guys.
Your daughter gives you practise for us. We'll try not to...
No, she's good at cluttering her workspace.
So, Daddy, what did you make today?
Right now, I'm packing. Packing my stuff, my luggage.
I try to not forget anything.
And then, um...I have to get ready for the big day.
-The big day's coming up?
-Time goes really by.
Then, when I leave for France, I'm not going to see her for six weeks, you know, so that's very hard.
Very hard. My girlfriend Rachel, we have a ritual.
Before I go to sleep she tells me -
and I told her to do that, because it does work -
I said to her, you have to tell me that
Sebastien called and there's something going to happen and the MOF is actually cancelled.
Cancelled. And if she does this, but she has to do it for real,
you know, not just like, "By the way, it's cancelled," then it doesn't grab on.
But if she tells me, really something happens,
the MOF is cancelled, then I do not dream about the MOF at night, because that's my, er...
Like, my nightmare is...
I am at the MOF and I am competing, right,
and always something goes wrong.
The sugar showpieces, the cream puff, the brioche we have to make,
the jam, the wedding cake, there's a wedding cake, plated dessert,
there's some tea pastries, chocolate candies, lollipops, chocolate sculpture, OK?
It's about 40 different recipes.
I had mixed feelings, because we have known each other for so many years, you know,
we've known each other and worked together for...for 15 years.
You know, so at one point, we sat down and I said, "But who is your coach?"
And he said, "Well, it's you."
I said, "But it doesn't work like that." You know...
"I don't know if I want to be your coach."
It's much easier for me, because I know Jacquy less than he does,
to say something, something not too nice sometimes.
You saw that, that's abuse. You saw it, right?
If a person doesn't perceive your advice the right way,
you know, you can just lose them,
because they bring you something and what you do is just...
confuse them even more.
Stephane, he like them, but then, he made me change them,
And when they were changed, Sebastien didn't like the changes
and then I showed him the picture of the first presentation and he's like, "Oh, this is much better." OK.
The theme is marriage.
This is the wedding cake. We want it to be refreshing,
because the judges are going to eat 16 cakes.
You serve something really heavy with chocolate,
it's pretty much suicide.
You serve something fruity...
..the judge is like, "Thank you."
But it's going to be shaped like a dome.
They like when candidates, they have to do a little something.
We'll have to do it like this.
We're going to put some vanilla mousse.
100 grams. Then we're going to press this guy in there.
So the mousse will go...
Half-an-hour to 40 minutes for those guys to be hard like a rock.
This is the raspberry layer,
the thin layer, so the raspberry is right here.
This guy warms up the bowl, pops this out.
Then you put 100 grams of that raspberry puree.
If it's too soft, if that raspberry thing is not cooked enough,
it will just, like, fall off.
Then, here, a little bit of mousse.
Here we have a sponge.
And the difference is, we're going to put the caramel right here.
Before I had it down here.
So this is not just a regular caramel, it's a raspberry caramel.
It's like a spread, like raspberry Nutella.
Then here, there's mousse.
Then here, there's another sponge.
Here's the dacquoise.
Egg white, sugar, hazelnut flour, a little flour, powdered sugar.
It's called a dacquoise.
It's between a sponge and a meringue. Meringue.
More mousse, and then more mousse.
And then, here the crunchy...
Et voila. I'm going to put it directly in the blast freezer.
So, once those two are frozen, just warm up the bowl a bit,
pop this guy out of here...
..and you force this guy in there,
and the puree will go... HE WHISTLES
If you whistle, it works better.
And in order to glaze it, you have to freeze it.
There we go.
Now we have to glaze it twice.
Believe it or not, where the things are is affecting the taste.
I would put a bit more gelatine, so you see it's not sliding off.
-But it's, um... it's a good step, huh?
-How are you?
-How are you?
-How was your day?
-Now you're getting a bone?
-Do you think he knows he's getting a bone?
-Daddy, what did you do today?
-Want a bone? Are you a good boy?
-What did I do today?
-I worked on a wedding cake and brought a present for you.
-I brought the first wedding cake.
-'It's in the car.'
Can you close that door, please?
Oh, that's really pretty. Very simple.
This is going to be my sugar showpiece.
So we will show up with this over there
and then we have to put 50% of pulled and blown sugar on there.
So, you have to be careful, because the bigger this guy is, the more I have to put on, right?
So, this is carved chocolate.
This egg is made with the sugar crystals.
I just need one.
But I am going to make nine, just in case I break eight.
So this is blown sugar.
This is going to be kind of like a modern couple type thing
that will be put in there.
And then, on top, I want to put this...this diamond, OK?
Most of the showpieces, they break whenever you are...
When you carry it like this, they never break
but when you put them down, usually you get tired, you put them down and, boom.
So here, I have shock absorbers.
See those guys? They will absorb the shock here and then the thing will slowly go down.
This is a technique that we learn in glass blowing. It's going to be beautiful.
They call it a bijou. The candidate has to bring it.
So, here, hundreds of sugar-pulled flowers.
After eight hours of doing this, you're completely drained, you know?
The MOF is every four years. So when...
So I started thinking about this already
when I was helping Sebastien doing his MOF,
so I get, um...I got excited,
and, for four years, I sacrificed pretty much everything,
not everything everything, but it is going to be my moment
and it's up to me to grab it or not, you know?
After this is all done, this will be a different kitchen here.
-We'll have a granite table that matches the counter tops.
Like a long one here, and then the cabinet-maker is making legs, so...
So I'd better perform. Otherwise, I will not come back to Chicago.
I'll just, er... become a monk in Thailand.
I told Kurt no pressure, no pressure,
I told Kurt no pressure,
but if we don't get this, I will never get over it.
He's like, "Oh, thanks a lot(!)" LAUGHTER
OK, this way.
-Bye, sweets, bye.
-I am going to miss you very much.
-Me too, Daddy.
Hi and bye.
-ALL: Good luck.
-Take care. Have a safe trip.
-Good luck, Chef.
-Knock 'em dead.
-Make me proud.
-I call you?
'You know, I even told Jacquy, you have to be selfish at some point.
'You want that thing and nothing is going to stop you.'
-They're going to miss you, huh?
-It looks like it.
Look, I'm wearing high heels so I could get higher.
Pierre Zimmermann is a childhood friend.
He's a baker in a small village.
He lets me use the whole first-floor above the bakery to practise for the MOF.
Nice and quiet. I love it like this.
PIERRE SPEAKS FRENCH He said that's not very appetising.
INAUDIBLE SPEECH, THEN THEY SPEAK FRENCH
Don't even get me going.
-They look like fish.
-What are you talking about?
Does it go like this? Now I have room for this...
That would be really, really clever if we, if we spread this guy more.
-And make room for something, half a dome or something.
So the cakes are not even resting on this, because...
If the cakes rest on this guy,
-that's where it'll come down.
So Frank is a MOF chocolatier, and he was in the team last year when we won the World Championship.
I would go, so, for more movement. You know, the stuff...
Two or three more, and maybe higher than that.
And two or three more here, to keep the movement.
Everything we glue must be very clean.
We cannot see those marks everywhere. It is kind of dirty.
You can see this one here.
I mean, there is no point to have marks like this here.
I am concerned about the time he spent on those flowers.
Because he have to do at least the same one for the sugar showpiece,
so I think it's a lot of sugar to pull during the competition.
-Crystallised eggs are out.
-I'm done with those. Out.
We made, er...11, I think.
-50 gallons of syrup.
-50 gallons of syrup, yeah.
Down the drain.
Let's, er... attend to our sugar showpiece.
And then, the test is to lift it.
-You see those things I was talking to you about on the bottom?
Those shock absorbers?
I have to redesign the couples a little bit.
And then, maybe rebuild it.
Time is running out, so I have got to pick and choose
what I can do and what I cannot do.
I'm anticipating him to be behind at the dry run, you know?
So I'm going to start looking during these three days, when he is doing it, where I can cut everywhere.
But that's the difficulty of this competition. Those guys are all good.
They're not there
Straight from the oven. It's still hot.
Trying to make a kitchen in a garage.
Trying to anticipate where I can actually cut some times.
-Pecan, butter, flour...
..quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix. We should have nine, ten.
OK, you ready?
Nothing on the table at all.
'He started terrible. I mean, he was already late.
'40, 45 minutes after maybe 1.5 hours of work.'
And that's the result of, like, not having done any practice
and being in, like, "OK, now we got to practise before we go."
And he never, like, run those three days in his head.
He never run the race in his head.
So he started, and went right into the wall.
I've got nothing left in my arm.
I have to make a lot of changes before Monday.
WOMEN CONVERSE AND LAUGH
All the tasting is pretty good.
You know, I mean, except today, we had a couple of bad ones.
Which really offsets how good it was with the taste.
But the work, obviously, you know, not being on time,
it's going to be a big challenge.
And we have some changes to do on artistic, I mean...
If you break anything, it's over.
Like Sebastien says, it is very difficult to say, as a coach,
"This is the right way, this is the wrong way." It's like the Olympics.
You have to be good that day.
I just got here.
Missed my flight, etc, etc.
You know what, I still can't believe that, tomorrow...
you know, when we were talking about this three years ago...
-Tomorrow's the day.
-Yeah, it's crazy.
-You want me to take the heavy stuff out of that? Because it will be easier to carry that.
Go. They are waiting for you.
-OK. Bye, you guys.
-Bye. Can you go any higher than that?
-Can I go any higher?
Oh, my God! It's beautiful!
He sent a picture to me, though. He showed us a picture of the gite.
Oh, Rachel, look how beautiful it is, isn't it?
It's so romantic. We're going to have such a nice time.
With Kurt? Donald? And Laurent?
-This is the bijou.
Oh, God, they're all covered.
I want to see them.
-It's beautiful, isn't it? Is going to be the nicest one.
This Lyon is so pretty.
What time are you going to get up at?
I would say...5.
-Because I need time to wake up, you know?
-And it's going to get worse, because every day the competition starts earlier.
I missed you.
Of course, that's my secret hat that I knitted for him.
But look what Alex made.
You can't see it, but it says good luck and good night, I love you.
-Isn't that sweet? I'll give it to him, so he can have a good luck card in his pocket.
Isn't that sweet?
'Both judges are here at all times, and they ask questions and look.
'You can't cheat. They'll see what you do. Even if something goes wrong, you can't hide.
'We check your coolers, we check your freezers.
'We check your equipment, we check your garbage.
'We check everything.
'And when you are in the right spirit,
'and when you're ready, you don't even think about hiding.
'It will work how it's supposed to work.
'But at some point, what's difficult is, within the judges,
'everybody has strengths and weaknesses within the whole field,
'because it's different from chocolate to sugar and so forth.
'What's amazing is, when you start something like ribbon,
'and you're going to have two or three guys that are known for ribbon.
'And then, you see two or three of those that are probably your mentor. They were your example forever.
'You will look at a book when you were young, and you were like, God, this is the best.
'And then that day you're there, making it, and they're there and they stay.
'All they want is you to make it, and if you do it good,
'they'll go around, like, "This guy is good. This guy is good." '
'The chocolate showpiece, I lost at least half-an-hour to 40 minutes,
'because yesterday, the chocolate was so thick, I couldn't pipe cleanly,
'so I had to do a lot of fixing, a lot of cleaning.
'Oh, my God, it was a disaster.'
'Very cold. The chocolate, the dipping of the candy,
'you had to be so fast.
'Once you get it out in the air,
'if you kept the candy one second longer, it would stick to the fork.'
'Good. I was waiting for it, because you have to take care of the taste.
'The rose petals, beautiful little rose petals.
'I was like waiting with the oil, to make the little beignets,
'and then, when they said, five minutes, then I started...
'Made the beignets, and then, added a little decoration.
'A little sour cream action.
'When they told me 60 seconds, then I started to make my quenelle.
-How are you?
-Yeah, here, you've got to carry this, I can't do it.
-How was it?
It was bad ass, you know?
I like how you said it was bad ass, so that I can understand if it was good or not.
The candies, lollipops, everything is fine.
-You didn't stop and eat or drink or anything all day?
I had two granola bars.
So, er, tomorrow is a very, very short day.
I need at least...
I want to say two hours to pull sugar.
I have to have two hours.
How did your couple come out?
-I haven't done it.
-Oh, you haven't?
Do you see? Everything should be empty here, because we might not go to bed very early.
Hopefully, we'll last.
Then we'll have something to celebrate.
-Are you OK on time? Are you feeling comfortable?
I mean, I was really struggling.
The last four hours, I was making three recipes at the same time, you know?
The brioche is going, and I'm doing another thing, another's on the stove...
Usually, you don't do that, you do one recipe at a time, so you can really...
But here, I had to multi-task.
Otherwise, I would still be cooking right now.
Don't get used to eating like this, OK?
The guy across from me, it's his fourth time.
-A lot of people, it's that.
-You have to admire that, you know?
Not giving up. Knowing you want something and just going for it.
-He's a nice guy. Yeah.
-Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very nice.
I finished five seconds before the end.
Just throwing... not throwing, but like...
How did your couple come out?
-I didn't make it.
-Did you make the flowers and that was it?
I made two flowers for the big showpiece, and, in bubble sugar, a ribbon, and then big curls.
-Can you believe it's over?
-Now life starts.
This poor guy broke his showpiece.
He's completely devastated.
-That's so sad.
Here comes the boss. Everybody act normal. Act busy.
Ca va? C'est fini. Over.
Oh, there's your mom.
-How are you? Ca va?
How do you say exhausted?
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
In life, sometimes, things are painful, but you have to go through it so it brings new and good things.
I believe I'm here to challenge myself,
to teach, to convince people to do the best that can be done.
That's what the MOF is all about.
I would do it again in a heartbeat, and Rachel said, "Well, if you really want to do it, then go for it."
I don't know if it was destiny that the theme of the MOF was marriage and then it ended up with a marriage.
So you make the cake one last time, but it's actually for a good thing.
Daddy, can I have one?
-What do you want? A slice of cake?
APPLAUSE AND WHISTLING
A quick toast to, er... my soul mate, Rachel.
And to my great friends, thank you for coming.
Subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Imagine a scene never before witnessed - 16 French pastry chefs gathered in Lyon for three intense days of mixing, piping and sculpting everything from delicate chocolates to six-foot sugar sculptures in hope of being declared one of the best by the country's President.
This is the prestigious Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition (Best Craftsmen in France). The blue, white and red striped collar worn on the jackets of the winners is more than the ultimate recognition for every pastry chef - it is a dream and an obsession. The finalists, France's culinary elite, risk their reputations as well as sacrifice family and finances in pursuit of this lifelong distinction of excellence. Similar to the Olympics, the three-day contest takes place every four years and it requires that the chefs not only have extraordinary skill and nerves of steel but also a lot of luck.
Filmmakers DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus secured exclusive access to shoot this epic, never-before-filmed test of France's finest artisans. The film follows chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago's French Pastry School, as he journeys back to his childhood home of Alsace to practice for the contest.
Two other finalists are profiled in the documentary - Regis Lazard, who was competing for the second time (he dropped his sugar sculpture the first time), and Philippe Rigollot from Maison Pic, France's only three-star restaurant owned by a woman.
During the gruelling final competition, chefs work under constant scrutiny by master judges and the critical palates of some of the world's most renowned chefs evaluate their elaborate pastries. Finally, these pastry marathoners racing the clock must hand-carry all their creations including their fragile sugar sculptures through a series of rooms to a final buffet area without shattering them.
The film captures the high-stakes drama of the competition - passion, sacrifice, disappointment and joy - all in the quest to become one of the Kings of Pastry.