Competing for sugar supremacy

Doc follows French pastry chefs as they turn sugar into art, leaving viewers with a craving for something sweet

Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer works on his chocolate sculpture in this scene from Kings of Pastry. Chris Hegedus

I used to think that I loved cake. Now, after seeing Kings of Pastry, I know that all cake and I had was merely a lusty fling – we barely even knew each other.

This documentary follows the lives of some of France’s most skillful pastry chefs as they compete to be named one of the Best Craftsmen in France (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France).

These pastry chefs are truly in love with cake. The competition takes place every four years and lasts for three delicious days. The chefs are more like artists, creating cream puffs so pretty I would feel guilty for eating one, and intricate chocolate sculptures that look more like a piece of art you would find in a museum than an edible piece of fudge. 

The first part of the movie shows the pastry chefs practicing, or perhaps more accurately, training, for the big event.

They have to get their timing, tasting and decorating perfected before they are ready for the final competition. I almost screamed in agony every time a perfectly good cake was heartlessly thrown in the trash just because the raspberry puree was too gelatinous.

The pastry chefs seem more like scientists trying to perfect an experiment than chefs trying to bake a cake. The most difficult part of the competition is the sugar sculpture. Some of these beautiful sculptures reach heights of six-feet tall and the incredibly delicate sugar is prone to breaking at the slightest touch, so watching the chefs create these sculptures is nerve-wracking. 

Comic relief from all the suspense is provided by many characters but most prominently by chef Jacquy Pfeiffe’s assistant, Kurt, who the camera catches giving eye rolls and blank stares at his boss’ clumsy moments more than a couple of times.

The directors also chose to include some scenes with the chef’s family members to show how the highly demanding MOF competition affects their home life, which gives the film a nice balance. If you’ve ever seen shows like Cake Boss or Ace of Cakes, you’ll have an idea of the kinds of amazing things that you can do with sugar, but this documentary takes these creations to a whole new level.

Kings of Pastry gives audiences an insider’s perspective on the humour, struggle and artistry of the highest prestige possible in the pastry chef profession and leaves them with a serious craving for anything cream-filled.

Published in Volume 65, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 7, 2010)

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