ottolenghi and the cakes of versailles
REVIEWER: lyall carter
Celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi assembles a star-studded team of the world's most innovative pastry chefs to put on a Versailles-themed culinary gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
As I’ve remarked before in similar reviews, there appears to be a plethora of documentaries out in cinemas and on streaming services these days. But none quite like this one. Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles is a sumptuous cinematic journey for the mind, soul and the taste buds that you really need to take.
Documenting the collaboration between world renowned chef Yotam Ottolenghi (Plenty, Simple) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles follows five visionary pastry makers. A veritable who’s who of the dessert world is assembled – including Dominique Ansel and Dinara Kasko – as they race against the clock to construct a decadent food gala based on the sumptuous exhibit: Visitors to Versailles.
For lovers of everything from art to history to fine culinary feasts, Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles is the film for them. Even though it comes in at a brisk 75 minutes Ottolenghi manages to pack in plenty more than just art, history and food.
Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles takes us on Yotam Ottolenghi’s journey showing us how he went from feeling like an outcast in the culinary world because of his age and sexuality to finding it as his ‘place’ and becoming a world renowned chef in the process. We are also given a detailed glimpse into the lives and methodology of the five pastry and dessert makers from the more elegantly traditional to the exquisitely experimental.
We also are taken on a highly informative ride through the history of Versailles as well as the history of food which further helps to illustrate the wonder and inspiration of the five unique creations that the pastry and dessert makers craft for the special Met collaboration.
But this film isn’t just an art, history and culinary feast. It also serves as a societal observation. In the centre of the magnificent culinary feast at the Met stands the famous Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux statue of Ugolino and His Sons. The famous statue depicts the story of Ugolino from Dante's Inferno in which the 13th century count is imprisoned and starving with his children. Ottolenghi muses that just like in Versailles that had an open court we too have an ‘open court’ to wealth and privilege - social media - which helps to heighten a sense of exclusion. They are brief observations but they hit with an incredible force.
Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles is a sumptuous cinematic journey for the mind, soul and the taste buds that you really need to take.