Nov. 18th, 2010

petermarcus: (Default)
I'm a cook and a father. So, the movie Ratatouille means a lot to me on quite a few levels. The kids like it, but it's also a really good movie about cooking (and, through cooking, life in general). Many animated movies have said: "An animated kids movie adults will love", but Ratatouille is almost the reverse: "An animated adult movie kids will love."

Thomas Keller, widely regarded as the best American chef of French cuisine in America, was the creative consultant for the movie, and his influence is tangible for those who understand restaurants. One of the big pet peeves I have is the casual use of the term "chef" (and I have been called a chef many, many more times than I deserve it by people who should know better). A chef is a leader of a brigade in a kitchen. In a sense, the word chef might as well be "Captain". A cook, like Auguste Gusteau in the movie (a not-so-subtle reference to Auguste Escoffier) can be anyone. Anyone can be a great cook but a chef is a term reserved for leadership. Me -- I'm a cook. A good one, I'd like to think.

Ratatouille illustrates this. Linguini calls Remy, who controls his cooking movements, his "Little Chef" -- Remy physically controls Linguini to create amazing food, and Linguini accepts Remy's leadership. But, when Remy's dad later asks Remy why he cares if a human restaurant fails or not, Remy's answer is: "Because I'm a cook!" The restaurant isn't going to live or die by leadership, but by the talent and genius of Remy's food. Yes, in one sense he's a chef (and a true one by the end of the movie), but above all else, Remy is a cook.

My favorite review of Ratatouille is Roger Ebert's, who starts off by saying: "A lot of animated movies have inspired sequels [ ...] but Brad Bird's "Ratatouille" is the first one that made me positively desire one.", and later perfectly captured Remy's French spirit (even though voiced by an American) by noting: "Does any other nationality have more ways of moving a finger and an eyebrow less than an inch while signaling something as complex as, "I would do anything for you, monsieur, but as you see, I have only two hands, and these times we live in do not permit me the luxury of fulfilling such requests." When Linguini tells Remy: "So I'm not crazy!!!" Remy's shrug encompasses the French knack of speaking a paragraph with a few gestures.

Ebert's review:

(And I can't wait for a sequel, though, alas, there is no news of one yet.)


petermarcus: (Default)

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