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From Pastry Royalty to Sushi Masters: Top Ten Food Documentaries of All Time From Pastry Royalty to Sushi Masters: Top Ten Food Documentaries of All Time

From Pastry Royalty to Sushi Masters: Top Ten Food Documentaries of All Time

by Lara Rabinovitch

March 21, 2013

The just-released film A Place at the Table, a documentary that aims to expose the issue of hunger in America today, is the latest addition in the growing genre of food-focused films swelling the festival circuits. Although many of these recent documentaries are issues-driven, the best among them, like any film (or work of art), transcend any explicit message—most lamely seen in the form of asking viewers to partake by “texting” whatever carefully branded word summarizing that message—and instead leave the viewer with a host of social or cultural themes to ponder. With this in mind I’ve created this list of best food documentaries for our month-long focus on food. In all of these films food is eaten, processed, cooked, farmed, sold, fretted over—but, above all, it serves as a form of inspiration. 

Kings of Pastry (2009). D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus’s heartbreaking film chronicles the ultimate food competition: the pastry division of the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, an award bestowed by the French government every four years to the best craftsmen in the country. Just try not to weep.   

Thin (2006). Although Lauren Greenfield’s recent film The Queen of Versailles (2012), a gripping portrait of excess, is generating a lot of buzz these days, her first feature, Thin, on conceptions (or misconceptions) of excess is an equally brilliant film. This devastating profile of women with severe eating disorders powerfully and intimately exposes the depths of these illnesses and the fraught relationship far too many women have with food. 

Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven (2007). Andrew Rossi’s film about an aging empire, Sirio Maccioni’s famed restaurant Le Cirque, reads in part as a who’s who of New York glitterati, particularly of the 1980s and 90s, but is mainly about family, the meaning of a restaurant, and the passing of time. And tortellini. 

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011). Similar to A Table in Heaven, this much-lauded elegiac profile of a three-star Michelin sushi stand in the Tokyo subway quietly captures the complexities a Japanese chef/owner faces towards the end of his career. David Gelb’s film delicately wraps the struggle between tradition and change and the weight of a legacy in this meditative portrait of rice and fish.

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