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Step Up To The Plate

The French documentary “Step Up to the Plate” is more about family and generations than about food and restaurants.

Yes, SUTTP does present wonderful shots of beautiful food presentations. But the focus is more on a father, his son and their extended family. The father, Michel Bras, knows it’s time to hand over control of his three-star Michelin restaurant to his son, Sebastien, who has known from an early age that his destiny was to follow in his father’s footsteps.

As Sebastien works to assemble flavors to create new dishes, his father stands nearby with constructive criticism. Dad points out that he is a tougher critic than diners might be. It becomes clear that, while his son will take over, Michel will be nearby.

A quick montage shows print coverage of the restaurant over the years: first one star, then two, then three. The restaurant, in France near the town of Laguiole, has relocated in recent years to a modern structure in an isolated area away from town.

“Step Up To The Plate” does a nice job of telling the story of the people involved in this restaurant as well as its food and its operation. By showing Michel’s elderly parents as well as Sebastien’s young children, the filmmaker gives a good overview of family tradition through its generations, including an affinity for bread spread with blackberry jelly and topped with a slice of the local cheese.

One sequence, in which Sebastien takes a nostalgic visit to his grandparents’ barn, might explain why he uses milk in so many of his dishes: he recalls that, as a child, he would drink raw milk in the barn, moments after it had been taken from the cows.

In just under an hour and a half, we enjoy a visit to the scenic French countryside (with a side trip to Japan), we meet a likeable family and we get an inside look at their restaurant and its leadership transition. Unlike most of the food shows we see on American TV with their quick cuts and short sound bites, SUTTP’s pace is slow and relaxed—the way most of us prefer a fine dining meal to be presented. Savor it.

“Step Up To The Plate” is in French, with subtitles.

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