Based on the true story of Danièle Delpeuch who served as personal chef to French President François Mitterand, LES SAVEURS DU PALAIS (also given the English title HAUTE CUISINE) amuses and captivates with its wry humour, mouth-watering filming and culinary magic.
Hortense lives a calm provincial life on a truffle farm in the Périgord, until she is hastily whisked away to the Palais de l’Elysee to cook for the President. Instructed by Mitterand himself to cook traditional, simple, homely dishes using the best of France’s produce, she sets about making waves in the Palace’s testosterone-driven kitchen.
She rattles cages, bemuses her sous chef with her crème mémé and upsets the palatial apple cart by sourcing produce from her own address book. Despite acquiring the nickname ‘La du Barry’ (after Louis XV’s official mistress) it is clear that the special connection between Hortense and President Mitterand filmed during their brief encounters is based on nothing more than a deep shared passion for simple, traditional cuisine.
Increasingly, however, Hortense’s creativity is stinted by the constraints of palatial protocol, the President’s declining health and the Palace’s budgetary cuts. She seeks to please the President at every opportunity, like a child vying for his attention and only occasionally being rewarded with a peep through closed doors, a note of approval, or a plate scraped clean.
…harsh natural environment and challenging geographical isolation acts as a foil for the luxury of the Palace.
Director, Christian Vincent, oscillates between this episode in Hortense’s life and her subsequent stationing at a remote French Research Base in the Antartic. This other life with its harsh natural environment and challenging geographical isolation acts as a foil for the luxury of the Palace.
It cleverly adds depth to the film by refocusing the narrative on Hortense, the person, instead of Hortense, the President’s chef. In the flash-forward sequences we observe the same desire to please in a different context. Yet, unlike pleasing the President, these sequences, whose significance is a little lost at the beginning of the film, show Hortense finding herself and fuelling her own ambitions.
A well-balanced story, audiences are sure to walk away with a smile, not to mention quite an appetite.