International Policy Digest

IFC Films
Entertainment /26 Sep 2020
09.26.20

‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles’ Review

Food, art, and history…There may not be a connection at your local McDonald’s, but there certainly is among the world’s most renowned chefs. Director Laura Gabbert (City of Gold, 2015) documents the story beginning with Yotam Ottolenghi receiving an email from the Metropolitan Museum of Art asking him to curate a culinary presentation in conjunction with the museum’s 2018 “Visitors to Versailles” exhibit, covering the years 1682-1789, just prior to the French Revolution.

Ottolenghi is an accomplished chef (with a test kitchen in London), restauranteur, and described as the world’s most influential cookbook author. Born in Israel, he’s our charming and exceedingly intelligent guide through this global process. Ottolenghi toured The Met and Versailles and explains his rationale for focusing on desserts – a beautiful and colorful symbol of wealth and excess from the era.

He then sets out to assemble a pastry “Dream Team” consisting of: Dominique Angel, the French pastry chef who invented the Cronut; Dinara Kasko, a trained Ukrainian 3D architectural design expert-turned-chef who now builds her own 3D molds for food; Ghaya Oliveira, born in Tunisia and now the pastry chef at NYC’s elite Daniel restaurant; Bompas and Parr, the British chefs known for technology and jellies – though only Sam Bompas takes part in the project; and Janice Wong, a Singapore chef who specializes in “edible art.”

We learn the inspirations for each of the chefs, from the gardens and fountains of Versailles to the particular flavors of the era. Ottolenghi takes us into the kitchens, as well as allowing access to the strategy sessions with managers at The Met. Ms. Gabbert’s film offers a glimpse at the craftsmanship, creativity, and artistry of these chefs as they work towards the big night. The final presentations are dazzling works of art themselves, and ironically (or maybe not) are enjoyed by the elites in attendance at the event. Marie Antoinette’s beheading may have been ‘a just dessert’ for an era of decadence, but the beauty of what these modern-day artists have created is quite something to behold…and a nice respite from the world’s turmoil.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles is available on IFC Films.