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Food culture has never been more popular than it is today. Across the globe, foodies flock to every new culinary endeavor with curiosity and renewed enthusiasm. At the helm of this movement are Top Chefs, creating exquisite cuisine to serve and please their guests. Michelin Stars: Tales from the Kitchen lends a spotlight to Top Chefs in the industry; these chefs inspire us to discover new flavors and sensations and foster an ever-growing love of gastronomy throughout the community.
“My whole life I’ve had a passion for the gastronomy scene. It’s always been important to me to eat great meals, to cook, to learn and to know about gastronomy.” — Rasmus Dinesen
Director Rasmus Dinesen shares his passion for food in his new documentary, Michelin Stars: Tales from the Kitchen. The film captures Top Chefs and critics offering their own opinions about the Michelin Guide’s controversial rating system. The Michelin Guide, which holds the chefs to high standards, has been the indicator for fine cuisine since the 1900s. Today, 119 one-star Michelin restaurants span across 27 different countries. The Michelin Guide maintains strict criteria, and Tales from the Kitchen sheds light on renowned chefs in the field. Despite the guide’s standards, all of these chefs know how to create aesthetically pleasing and delicious cuisine. It just might turn out that when it comes to cooking, preference is a matter of taste.
Just as you might imagine, the film offers an in-depth look at the Michelin Guide, including its history and commercial interests. For instance, you may be surprised to learn that the Michelin brothers established the Michelin Guide to promote their product—tires. The Michelin brothers wanted to inspire automobile owners to get out of the house, drive, use and buy more tires. Today, many sources offer their opinion about the best restaurants in the world. It’s hard to say which guide is the best guide out there. As for Dinesen, he says, “The Michelin Guide, the guide that pays for their own meals, they’re transparent. Maybe it’s old-fashioned, but it’s also the most esteemed guide out there.” Michelin’s system may be dated, but over the years it’s become known for its quality finds and selection of top-notch restaurants and chefs.
On to the Top Chefs
Tales from the Kitchen contains reactions from a slew of critically acclaimed chefs, including Alain Ducasse, Daniel Humm, Guy Savoy, Victor Arquinzoniz and Yoshihiro Narisawa. They express their thoughts about the Michelin system and its criteria for quality ingredients, exquisite flavor, individual personality and consistency in regards to excellence. While some believe that it is the highest honor to receive a Michelin star, others note that cooking is their passion and their life, and they’d be in the industry regardless of praise. Meanwhile, the critics tend to point out flaws within the guide, noting their own preferences opposed to that of the guide. The result of this blend of opinions is a well-balanced meal, or in Dinesen’s words, “Balance, rhythm and poetry,” all coming together at last.
Dinesen’s film also draws attention to experimental chefs, highlighting another controversy within the culinary world. Critic Matt Goulding highlights Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz and Chef René Redzepi of Noma as two unique artisans of their craft, constantly dishing out new and refined meals. Their dishes don’t always please, but their willingness to try new things and their desire to work with natural ingredients have critics coming back time and time again to try their cuisine. Matt points out that while their restaurants only have two stars, “Nothing can be improved upon,”regarding taste or experience. In fact, when asked of his preference, Dinesen notes, “I would like to go back to Austria because I never thought about it as a place to enjoy very good food, so it totally blew my mind.” Perhaps the significant part of the guide is its ability to entice everyone to take a trip, explore new places and learn from new experiences, regardless of a three-star distinction.
Ups & Downs In the Industry
Although the film presents a relatively positive vibe of the restaurant industry throughout, Dinesen also tackles the underbelly of the industry, exposing the toll this industry can take on the well being and mental health of its members. Long hours and the pressure to perform at the highest level make this career stressful and demanding. The industry comes with high stakes, and reports of abuse and suicidality linger. These issues are not highly publicized, but Tales from the Kitchen gives voice to such matters, “We’re not saying anything that isn’t already out there,” Rasmus points out, but there is a hope that the film will bring attention to the problem and promote change. Chefs also take issue with this, and some are already making efforts to correct long hours and demanding days of work.
On a brighter note, Tales from the Kitchen highlights chef’s efforts to use natural and locally sourced ingredients, working towards sustainability. Chefs including Yoshihiro Narisawa emphasize the value of working with fresh ingredients, which add an authentic quality to the dish. Chefs want to make great food and please their customers, but they also want to be activists for the industry and protect the environment. In fact, many chefs have their own gardens and feel a sense of social responsibility when considering products. It’s no longer just about owning a restaurant. Activist and Chef Claus Meyer says, “Chefs want to be activists who fight for things that are greater than their gain or commercial success.” Many chefs, including Guy Savoy, hope to see awareness in the gastronomic movement and end world hunger once and for all.
Dinesen agrees, “We want to be activists about what’s going on with the Earth, with pollution and food waste. We want to make a film about eating healthy, and curing diseases by making healthier choices.” A sequel to Tales from the Kitchen would provide more in-depth interviews with chefs and further explore such issues. Dinesen plans to focus on gastronomic films in the future.
The Newport Beach Film Festival will feature Michelin Stars: Tales from the Kitchen as a part of their brand new Culinary Film Series. The film shows on Monday, April 30 and Wednesday, May 2. You can view the full schedule for the festival here. Enjoy and prepare to be hungry!