Before there was Alinea, Eleven Madison Park, and Red Medicine, there was Michel Bras of Bras, 3-Michelin star restaurant in Laguiole, southern France creating Le Gargouillou, likely the most outrageous vegetable dishes known to man.
Step Up to the Plate, a newly released documentary, tells the story of Bras with a focus on the tense but unavoidable transition of kitchen control from Michel, the man who built the restaurant from scratch, to Sebastien, his son who has dedicated 15 years to working and learning the Bras kitchen and philosophy inside and out.
The movie has all the drama a food-obsessed person can dream of: an outstanding setting for any cook, a rich culinary history, family tension and father-son mentorship, and well, France. It is a must-see for anyone who is curious about understanding the heart and passion that goes into building an iconic restaurant like Bras.
After reading the daring and pointed article on Eleven Madison Park by Pete Wells in last Monday’s New York Times, this movie seemed even more relevant. Before the beginning of the dining season at Bras (which lasts only April through October), Michel Bras instructs his front-of-the-house staff on how to present dishes – short and sweet, with an ability to answer any further question competently. At Bras, the food is supposed to do the talking, to be the art, to be the center of attention for the diner.
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