Step Up to the Plate: A French Restaurant Clings to Its Michelin Stars

In 2009, Michel Bras decided to gradually retire from his legendary restaurant in southern France, a decision that might doom many Michelin three-star restaurants. But Bras planned to bequeath the restaurant to his son, Sébastien, just as his mother had given the restaurant to him. The turnover marks a happy new start for the kitchen, as Step Up to the Plate's many scenes of Sébastien contemplating sunrises make clear. "I think Sébastien will be at his best when Michel actually retires," a longtime friend says in this French documentary chronicle of the year leading up to Sébastien's assumption of the head chef's toque. Sébastien sometimes struggles to match his father's innate artistry ("I don't understand you," he says when Bras outlines a seed-oil concoction) and headstrong attitude, but he harbors none of the unspoken resentment that pollutes the father/son relationships in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, another recent doc about a great chef nearing the end of his career. Seen at SIFF earlier this year, Paul Lacoste's film is a sweet, leisurely paced tribute to family. Answering a typically Gallic question from an unseen French reporter, Sébastien says, "As I was saying, it's not a revolution."

 
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