End of an era as father hands over spatula

FOR Sebastien Bras, cooking is personal.

FOR Sebastien Bras, cooking is personal. "Behind the Michelin stars," he says, "every chef has a story to tell."

In Paul Lacoste's documentary, Step Up To the Plate, we see Bras labouring to create a dish that will stand as a kind of culinary autobiography, using ingredients - milk skin, laguiole cheese, blackberry jam - he associates with his upbringing.

There's something very intimate, Bras says, about sharing food that reflects his life. Does he consider haute cuisine an art? Speaking through an interpreter, he takes time to consider but ultimately agrees that "if art is there to provoke an emotion", this is something food can do as well.

But Step Up To the Plate is not one man's story. Equally central is Sebastien's father, Michel Bras, founder of the Bras restaurant in the south of France: the film leads up to Michel's official retirement, with Sebastien as his designated successor.

Clearly a private person in many respects, Bras says one reason for taking part was to show the strength of his relationship with his father. "In lots of cases this kind of transmission can have a lot of problems, and it goes very poorly," he says. In this case, however, "the passage was actually very successful".

Scattered through the film are images of father and son at dusk or dawn, looking across hills to the horizon. In context, this seems blatantly metaphorical: sunrise, sunset, the older generation passing on the torch. Bras says he had no idea this device would be employed, and few expectations about how the film would turn out.

When Bras and his family saw the finished product in Paris, it was a "very strong and intense" moment. Ultimately, Bras says, they were happy with the results. "It was a very accurate description."

Did watching himself on screen give him a new perspective? The answer is non. "There weren't really any surprises, there weren't any lessons." Nor has the release of the film changed his life. "It would probably be the worst thing if it had."

At most, he allows that the experience has introduced him to "the world of cinema". With a demanding job, young family, and a home town 48 kilometres from the nearest movie theatre, he doesn't get the chance to see many films - but perhaps he'll pursue this interest.

In the meantime, it's business as usual. The Bras restaurant is still booked out every night. Father and son remain in constant touch: there are always new projects to be embarked on, dishes to invent.

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