With its haute cuisine and award-winning restaurants, the City of Light makes it easy to romanticize cooking. However, this week’s Staff Pick Premiere, “Déguste” from filmmaker Stéphane Baz illuminates the darker tensions behind craft, cuisine, and culinary culture.
To create this vivid day-in-the-life style portrait, Baz drew from his own experience as a Parisian chef. The film aptly opens with an espresso before moving into food prep, searing, plating, and serving. A unique interchange between point-of-view footage and extreme close-ups builds tension, taking the audience back and forth between the chef’s movements and the food’s explosive transformation. Adding to the urgency is an immersive sound design, which forgoes voiceover, narration, and dialogue to create an emotional experience for viewers.
We’ve never seen a film quite like “Déguste,” so we caught up with filmmaker Stéphane Baz to learn more. Read on for excerpts from our conversation, and be sure and check out the film exclusively on Vimeo.
On the film’s inspiration:
“The idea was to make an organic movie about food. I thought about the position of the cook, and how kitchen service can be an internal fight. We wrote it with co-producer Vincent Antonini, aiming to express the drama through peculiar choices of mise-en-scène.”
On the editing process:
“We wanted to create a very short and intense film. The question during the editing was about the balance between the image sources. We worked with editor Maeva Issico to recreate the rhythm of a day in the kitchen —the increasing tension, pauses, and accelerations— with three points of view at the same time. With the music, the key was to find the perfect rhythm, even if it meant deleting a single frame.”
On shooting and funding:
“This was a small budget-film (25K euros), and there were seven of us on set for five days. We produced the movie with support from the TV channel Canal+ and grant money from Anaïs Bertrand’s ‘Maison du Film’ producer award. Luckily, I received help from the food suppliers I work with; we shot at L’os à Moelle restaurant and Jean Drouant Culinary School, where we had already done another short film.”
On creating tension:
“The film shows blood ties between cook and meal. In transforming food, a chef transforms himself at the same time. Heart, blood, nerves… it’s the same material. Everything is connected.”
On the food shown in the film:
“I wanted the recipes and close-ups to evoke the human body in order to create a symbiosis and a link between them. I decided to make a traditional meal with a gastronomic touch, using veal’s liver and beetroot, béarnaise sauce for rump steak, and caramel as an image of nerves.”
On the style:
‘”Deguste’ is an experimental movie that uses food to examine the pressure a cook faces. It doesn’t aim to make people hungry, but to make them feel tension. A cooking show has to be attractive; that was not the point for us.”