King Georges (2015) Poster

(2015)

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7/10
Le Bec-Fin
ferguson-627 February 2016
Greetings again from the darkness. The "foodie" fad has been in full swing for a few years now, resulting in a new generation of celebrity chefs … plus we each have that friend who believes top dollar and "hot" restaurants are the key to an enjoyable meal. First time director (and many times Producer) Erika Frankel provides a dose of history and authenticity (rather than Reality TV) as she turns her camera on Chef Georges Perrier and his Le Bec-Fin restaurant, an iconic Philadelphia dining locale for forty years.

In 2010, Chef Georges announced he would be closing the restaurant, and Ms. Frankel decided to take her camera into the kitchen to document the end of an era. Georges was a pioneer of French chefs coming to the United States and his four decade run is incredibly rare and quite a legacy. Early in the film, Georges tells us "A chef doesn't have a normal life", and the film documents the truth in this proclamation. His "20 hour workdays" cost him any shot at a family life, and though his daughter acknowledges as much, her comments are those of someone who has accepted that her father must cook in the way that an artist must paint. This level of food preparation is truly an art, and Georges is described as the world's greatest saucier … the foundation of French cuisine.

Other films and documentaries have taken us into kitchens, but it's Georges' personality and commitment to "perfection" that add a different spin here. Sure, he is extremely vocal … at times bombastic … but it's all related to his love of cooking. The stress and pressures in the kitchen of what has been called the finest restaurant in the country are at times almost unbearable, but the film helps us understand the staff dynamics and motivation.

The most interesting aspect of the film is the relationship between Georges and the young chef he is mentoring, Nicholas Elmi. Georges alternates between being demanding and appreciative. There is a touching scene where Georges invites Nick to share a meal and ballgame with him … in this world, it's the ultimate display of love. Director Frankel follows the career path of Elmi, and it makes for a fascinating end to the film and fitting tribute to Georges.
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7/10
The Frenchman And His Restaurant
bigverybadtom31 December 2017
This is a documentary about master chef (he even wears the blue-white-red official collar) Georges Perrier, who wanted to be a chef even since childhood, endured harsh schooling in France to become a master chef, and went to the USA to open a real French restaurant...in a then-decrepit neighborhood in Philadelphia. Why there? No matter, it succeeded for forty years and won many rave reviews.

Of course, he paid a price. He had to spend all of his days working, and all of his weeks, 360 days a year, and he was an utter perfectionist, constantly bullying his chefs and using plenty of bombastic and crude language. He had a wife and daughter, but his family would break apart, and near the age of seventy he tried to pass the baton to his best chef to run the restaurant. But to no avail-the restaurant got closed, and the chef ended up creating his own restaurant, definitely more modern that his former employer's.

An interesting documentary, but it makes you think twice about ever having your own business.
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6/10
A Philadelphia Institution
asc8517 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
While Philadelphia is one of the greatest cities in America, it has the unfortunate circumstance that it is only a 2 hour drive from New York City, arguably one of the greatest cities in the world. Accordingly, much of Philadelphia suffers from a huge inferiority complex. So when Le Bec Fin was in it's prime, this was a huge source of pride for Philadelphians. Not only was Le Bec Fin consistently considered one of the best restaurants in America, it was arguably just as good if not better than anything New York could offer.

So as someone who grew up in the New York media market, and then went to school in Philadelphia and have lived much of my adult life around the Philadelphia area, I understand that. And that was why I wanted to see this film, and observe the living legend in Philadelphia that is Georges Perrier.

If you're not from the Philadelphia area, I'm not sure how much you'll like it, but if you're from the Philadelphia area, I think you'll really appreciate it, including the end when we see the new Restaurant Row in South Philadelphia, where his protégé, Nicholas Elmi, has opened up a new restaurant.

Speaking of Elmi, I had watched his season on Top Chef, and didn't realize the history he had with Georges Perrier, which inexplicably wasn't discussed during his time on the show. Sadly, Elmi is only a little bit more likable in this documentary than he was on Top Chef.
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