La Ratatouille, Paris, France

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OK. I know we’re supposed to be discussing restaurants… the real kind, not the ones presented in fictional films. But Gasteau’s, the restaurant in the new Pixar film Ratatouille is simply too good not to mention. Anyone who is fond of the previous Pixar films should know that this second effort by Brad Bird (of the Incredibles) is one of their best films to date. Anyone who is not into seeing kids films should know that Bird’s films skew more towards adults and this one is particularly enjoyable.

Most importantly, the backdrop and texture of the film is provided by food, and specifically life at a high end French restaurant in Paris. Not only is Paris depicted in stunningly beautiful and accurate detail, but this same attention to detail is applied to the visualization of the kitchen, food, and goings on in a professional restaurant. I have no significant experience working in a professional kitchen, but the exposure I’ve had tells me that the details in this film ring very true. Even more importantly in a couple of small segments tackles the issue of describing how food tastes. As anyone who writes about food knows, writing about flavor is like dancing about architecture (to borrow a phrase). If you have visuals (as the film does in heaping amounts) then you can skimp on finding other ways to describe a dish. But not only does the movie spend time describing food beautifully, they came up with an abstract visual metaphor for flavor that does as good a job as anything I’ve seen explaining how to taste things to people who don’t usually take the time. And the film even acknowledges that not everyone will be able to taste their food that way.

There’s even a point in the movie where the fine art of reinterpreting a dish while respecting it is articulated with incredible detail and accuracy. I don’t know if it’s Bird himself, or someone else on the Ratatouille team, but somebody there had a deep understanding and appreciation for excellent food and the restaurant experience. They’ve expressed their perspective in loving and entertaining terms in the form of Pixar’s latest film. I’m thinking of seeing it again.

7 Responses to “La Ratatouille, Paris, France”

  1. Michael says:

    If you’re referring to the ratatouille dish itself in terms of reinterpretation, the “somebody” is none other than Thomas Keller, who consulted the Pixar team, cooked for them, gave them some cooking lessons, etc. and reinvented the ratatouille recipe as seen in the film.

  2. anonymous says:

    The ratatouille (both the dish and the movie) was developed with Thomas Keller. And Brad Lewis worked at the French Laundry to prep for the movie. So yeah, there’s some food poetry involved.

  3. Mara says:

    Perhaps it has to do with Thomas Keller being a consultant for the movie.

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/06/28/MNGGIQNA7M1.DTL

  4. mano says:

    I *just* had ratatouille today :)

    Yumm… my wife and kid made a huge pot of it (10 servings) yesterday after watching the movie.

    I haven’t seen it yet, but I grew up eating Ratatouille so I feel connected.

    Good post!

  5. Catherine says:

    I really enjoyed the movie because of its portrayal of kitchen life (although with less swearing and hazing), especially of women in the kitchen. Many times, professional kitchens are portrayed in film and television as jokes for regular characters to bumble about in or as hell on earth. (Which, granted, some kitchens are….or so I’ve heard) This movie shows people who are passionate about what they do and why they do it. The character of Collette is most identifiable to me as I know what it is like to work in the boy’s club that are restaurant kitchens. I do also enjoy the fictional chef Gasteau’s philosophy about food; that “anyone can cook”. It echoes the late Julia Child’s attitude toward cooking. When I was a kid, I watched her shows and read her books. She inspired me, along with other chefs, both famous and not, to really pay attention to food and culinary arts.
    I work in a kitchen and have for almost fifteen years now. It hasn’t always been easy, but I wouldn’t miss it for the universe.
    I’m glad that Mr. Bird and Pixar could portray that passion and love of a skill, art and craft that is cooking in a wonderful (and very funny) film.

  6. Khulan says:

    It’s such a sweet little rat, and quite good movie. i loved it. I like Incredibles. Also the movie “La Ratatouille” is so cool. i like the word any one can cook. i like this movie SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH! THANK GUYS!

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