Last night I attended the NYC premiere of the documentary Kings of Pastry – an insight into the path of attaining the prestigious title Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, (MOF) or best craftsman in France. What a rollercoaster. We follow three accomplished pastry chef’s as they compete for the coveted title; the kind-faced protagonist, Jacquy Pfeiffer is co-founder of the French school of Pastry in Chicago.
The three day Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition occurs every four years and is Olympian in its requirements of dedication, endurance, skill and creativity. Creating a menu of visually stunning gastronomic masterpieces under the scrutinous eye of the judges, (all previous MOF’s and in some cases, Idols and mentors of the competitors), takes a notable toll on the mental, physical and emotional wherewithal of the competing chefs. “Imagine pulling sugar while being watched by a guy who is a master at it. Who you’ve looked up to for years” states one of the competitors. That sentence alone sums up a modicum of the level of stress that these passionate artisans have to work under. Pulling sugar, molding chocolate, baking cake layers, crafting mousses – this contest is not for the faint of heart as precision in recipe, craftsmanship and humidity are what help these delicate edible works of art come to life.
Filmakers D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, do a great job at honing in on the heart of the story: the competitors and their relationships. Relationships with their family, with their mentors and more importantly with themselves and the desire to be the very best at what they do. Meilleurs Ouvriers de France is more than just a title – and the ever flowing tears on the part of the competitors AND judges make that quite clear.
Our audience laughed, gasped and ooh’ed throughout the screening. One notable gasp of disbelief echo’ed when pastries and cakes that took hours to make were discarded without a second thought. I think a little bit of me died inside..
There is no doubting the French’s strive for excellence in whatever they do. Mastery comes with hard work, talent and persistence – nothing less. And when the time is right it is duly rewarded, in the case of the MOF’s with a tri-color collar that will adorn them for life.
image via kingsofpastry.com