Upon the insistence of a friend who loves going to independent films, this weekend we saw Kings of Pastry, a documentary about the three-day Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition.
This is the Olympics of Pastry Arts in France, three rigorous days of sugar sculpting, cake decorating and buttercream piping like your life depended on it. It takes place every four years, and every pastry chef dreams of earning the right to be called “One of the Best Workers of France,” and wear the coveted tri-colored collar that’s the mark of a true artisan.
Not surprisingly, I had a lot of fun watching the movie. I marveled at the artistry that went into each of the showpieces, gasped when sugar towers cracked and teared up when one of the contestants felt like he couldn’t go on. For a foodie like me, it was a treat for the eyes and the imagination.
Having said that, I left the movie with two questions. The first: Where are the women? All the chefs were male, and I imagine a woman’s touch would fare well in the delicate chocolate swirls and sugar flower petals that the competitors have to work with.
Apparently, there are different categories for the competition, and in Pastry Arts, no woman has ever competed. The only woman who has ever won was for the Hot Food category, but none ever in Pastry Arts. This is also probably because that field in the French culinary world is dominated by men who have come from a families of male bakers. How sad! I’d like to think that in the coming years, the competition will start to see more women.
The other question I had was, “Why do most of the designs look, er, old?” Don’t get me wrong, each and every one was an exquisite work of art. But I had a feeling that the competition needs a dash of modernism. But maybe that’s just me. Perhaps the competition has a traditional aesthetic that it aspires to keep.
All in all, fun times in the theater! Go see it!