I frequently eat out. Sometimes it’s for convenience; other times it is for something special. The options are endless because restaurants are everywhere. They always have been, right? Well, no. Delicious, from director Éric Bresnard, is the story of the birth of the restaurant, and it was very much a revolutionary idea.
Set just before the French Revolution, we are told that in the 18th century fine cuisine was used by the nobility to “fight boredom and show its grandeur.” This at a time when most people barely had enough to eat. Noblemen would find and train chefs to create outlandish meals to display their wealth. One such chef was Pierre Manceron, who worked for the Duke of Chamford. After one of these elaborate dinners, the Duke brought Manceron into the dining room and let the guests critique the meal. When one dish was disapproved of, the Duke demanded an apology from Manceron, who refused and was dismissed.
Manceron and his son return to the remote post relay station (which served simple meals, such as broths to travelers) to start anew. While there, Louise, a woman who claims to have been a jam maker, shows up and asks to apprentice under Manceron. He thinks there is no point in teaching a woman, especially one he views as unworthy. (At one point he noted that the only women who carried themselves as Louise did were either noblewomen or whores—and if she were a countess she wouldn’t be there.) But she persists and as time goes by ideas start to form that they could make real meals for travelers.
In time, the Duke, who has never found a cook equal to Manceron, is willing to take him back. But it turns out that Louise also has a bone to pick with the Duke, and the plans to serve him a special meal could be deadly. But perhaps there is another way to get even for past injuries.
I doubt the film makes any real claims to historical accuracy, but the modern restaurant did evolve in France around this time. In this film we see various aspects of what we think of as restaurants develop along the way. But we also see how this really does have a revolutionary aspect. The film portrays the development of the restaurant as a democratization of food. Well made food is no longer only for the nobility. Anyone can come and enjoy the meal. And enjoyment is a key, because in this film food is joyful.
Delicious is not going to garner any Michelin stars, but it’s also not a greasy spoon. It may at least make you think when you eat out next about what a revolutionary thing you’re doing among all those other people.
Delicious is in select theaters and available on VOD.
Photos courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films