Saturday, April 11, I attended the Full Frame Documentary FIlm Festival in Durham, NC. That night I had the pleasure of viewing the world premiere of director Erika Frankel’s documentary, King Georges.
The film is the story of renowned French chef Georges Perrier, who came to the United States from Lyon, France in the 1960’s. Ten years later, he opened the doors of what would become the crown jewel of the Philadelphia restaurant scene, Le Bec-Fin.
Unfortunately, after four years of documenting the chaotic kitchen, the restaurant closed its doors for good in 2012. Le Bec-Fin was known for its stellar French cuisine, opulent style, and impeccable service for over forty years. The film’s main purpose, however, was to demonstrate how the restaurant no longer seemed in step with current tastes. The film follows Georges Perrier, fiery owner and head chef, granting the audience ample access into the belly of the beast. In stark contrast to the orchestrated perfection of its dining room, Le Bec-Fin’s kitchen is a constant bedlam of sweaty chaos and emotions, with Perrier as ringleader. In the film, he screams, swears, hovers obsessively over his sauces, tossing in dollops of heavy cream and large slabs of butter whenever backs are turned.
But even as the intensity of the job, and its 21-hour workdays, takes its toll, Perrier struggles with his decision to relinquish control. The film, however, was much more than just a vivid character study of a dedicated and passionate perfectionist. King Georges was a touching tribute to this master chef who realizes it is time to pass the torch on to the next generation whom he’s mentored so well.
The film was everything an avid film enthusiast such as myself could ask for. Enchanting, diverse, witty and sincere, I never once found myself uninterested or regretting my choice of selecting this film to use my one film volunteer pass on. And if being able to see the film at its world premiere wasn’t enough, I had the chance to meet personally with Chef Perrier and the director of the film. We spoke for several minutes, in French, about not only his amazing culinary skills, but how he had come to love America and develop his own niche within a country that is not well-known for its appreciation of formal eating.
Chef Perrier was also incredibly charming and silly in person, telling the audience in a Q&A post-viewing that he was “very French and loved to charm the ladies.” Overall, the experience is one that I will never forget, and I hope the film will soon be available to the public, as it is one that everyone, even nonfoodies, can enjoy.