Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles: Film Review
Director: Laura Gabbert
Revered Israeli-born chef, restaurateur, and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi stars in this genial yet unchallenging documentary from the City of Gold.
When Ottolenghi is challenged to cater for the 2018 New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art summer gala, he decides to assemble a crack squad of caterers and mavericks to help - in a sort of The A Team spinoff but for pastry chefs.
Matching his theory that every decent recipe has a story with it with the idea of the opulence of Versailles, it seems like a natural fit for Ottolenghi - and by extension for Gabbert who made such wonderful fist of her Jonathan Gold food critic film.
She has an eye for the food porn, and scatters shots of tasty delights among the proceedings, as well as using the sumptuous artistry of the Met itself and Versailles to complement the whole affair.
But, even with all that, there's about as much to Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles as a choux pastry - it looks mouthwatering from the outside, but probe the inside and you soon discover there's a hollowness to what's within.
A lack of conflict, and a lack of any kind of danger hovers over proceedings - there's no last minute failure to rise disaster, no tumbling of pastry on the floor and no Great British Bake Off style of competition to be beholden here. It's a fairly simple, fairly unchallenging film where Ottolenghi proves to be both curator of the event, and tour guide into the history of the Versailles era and some of the crack squad he assembles.
It's not that Gabbard doesn't pull it all together in a truly pleasant way, merely that this is a sugar rush which wears off fairly quickly and leaves the viewer feeling a bit deflated.
There is no real sense of build up to the actual event, just a workmanlike behind the scenes approach to capturing what goes on for the event, and allowing the chefs airtime to espouse their various views.
Perhaps that;s some of the problem - there are too many things to cover, and bizarrely too little time with one person to fully indulge; Gabbard's scope is a little too wide to retain a focus.
At the end of the day, Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles will satiate high end art lovers, and culture seekers but may leave the casual viewer deeply unsatisfied.