*** (Three stars)
Director Jóse Luis López-Linares follows chef Jesus Almagro on his ultimately frustrating quest to become Spain’s first winner of the Bocuse d’Or, an elite cook-off held annually in Lyon, France. While the film's pace is frantic, the suspense it builds proves more painful than thrilling, as the lovable Almagro encounters nothing but disapproval and dismay throughout his dogged pursuit of culinary excellence.
Arguably, the tangential segments about the ingredients featured in the 2007 contest (the Bresse chicken, the halibut and the king crab) provide the most fascinating components in the narrative. There are some funny moments (a noteworthy wardrobe malfunction and some timely expletives), as well as a few curious personalities, but the overarching story is generally depressing. Though affable enough, Almagro never seems to be enjoying the ride. A telling glimpse into the emotional wear and tear of the chef's meticulous, seemingly futile toil, the film raises a poignant question about such fanciful endeavors: Is the price of perfection really worth all the trouble?—Brendan Rancier, Eat Out intern
[This is a TONY staff review, written for the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. It is not considered an official review and should not be read as such. Please think of it as a casual impression from a movie-loving friend.]