Documentary

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles

This dessert documentary features delicious layers of history and culinary art.

On the side of my film criticism work, I also have a sweet tooth. But this sweet tooth, only trusts desserts that are made with love and not in factories. Just last week, I made three different kinds of cheesecakes for my sister’s wedding with flavors of mint, chocolate, and strawberry. The wedding guests practically cleaned my plates, they were so good. I made them with both art and love, and when I got my virtual ticket to the Chicago International Film Festival’s screening of “Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,” I just had to see its lavish tastes in desserts for myself.

It’s the story of chef Yotam Ottolenghi, who plans to bring the art and beauty of the Palace of Versailles in cake form to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. He is a man who knows there’s more to Marie Antonette’s “Let Them Eat Cake” quote, and he’s able to see the majesty inside other culinary artists. And it’s not just the desserts, but also he’s fascinated by the history and culture of Versailles. This doc dazzles you with one pastry masterpiece after another, by showing you the hard work and risks made to make these desserts delicious, visionary wonders.

Other artists in the movie include Dominique Ansel, the French pastry chef, who runs a shop in New York; Bompas & Parr, who both take their jellies to new heights, by making model structures out of them (trust me, it’s jaw-dropping and scrumptious-looking); and Dinara Kasko, who makes her desserts in the form of 3D printing (“unbelievable,” you may say). Julia Child would have loved these bakers.

There’s truth inside the desserts, which you may or may not completely grasp, but you’re still amazed at how they’re made. The artists behind them have their own stories and ambitions to reveal about them. It’s also hard work. I should know that when I made the cheesecakes, I was swamped. It takes time to make sure they’re at their highest potential. Ottolenghi was willing to present his passion for Frances royal residence and their treats, and did what was necessary to show them at the Met. He makes a great tour guide for the dessert world, and if Willy Wonka or Betty Crocker were real people, they would have loved him.

“Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles” is the kind of movie you’d want to watch with either popcorn and chocolate treats (Buncha Crunch would be my personal pick) or if you know someone who makes awesome cookies and cakes. Before this outbreak, I used to enjoy going to the movies with my mother and eating popcorn and candy to match a movie’s particular genre. This doc reminded me of that pure joy. It’s a short movie, running at an hour and 16 minutes, but it has it all-art, family lives, history lessons, people, desserts (I know I keep saying it), and big dreams. If you fancy this world of culinary arts, then see for yourself. But also bring a napkin, because you will drool as well.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

In Select Theaters and On Demand.

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