Starring: Curtis Duffy, Michael Moser
Directed by: Mark Helenowski (debut) and Kevin Pang (debut)
As the lives of chefs and restaurants continue to grow in the world of narratives, it was only a matter of time before personal profiles of world-renowned chefs began to surface in the world of documentaries. “For Grace” delves into the life of Chef Curtis Duffy, showing his culinary journey through personal tragedy and the tedious and stressful process of achieving his dream of building his own restaurant from the ground up.
If you’ve ever wanted to see the painstaking process involved in building a multi-million dollar restaurant, this is the film for you. Everything from kitchen design to ordering $90,000 worth of chairs is shown, as Duffy and his business partner Michael Muser put together the restaurant of their dreams. It can occasionally be a little dull, but these finer details will definitely pique the curiosity of those interested in the restaurant business.
The photography in “For Grace” is impressive, but mostly through the pure artistry and beauty of Duffy’s perfectly and artistically composed dishes. Every plate of food that comes out of Duffy’s kitchen is beautiful and creative, with each ingredient serving its exact purpose within the dish. Similar to how “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” showed how several dishes were made, “For Grace” uses close ups of the precise placement of objects within the plate that are not only mouth watering but a work of art when completed.
It is also great to see Duffy and Muser’s respect for each other and their staff as all of them all but kiss away their personal and family lives to work on the restaurant, often putting in 14-hour days. Centered in a cutthroat business, “For Grace” also explores the drive to be the best and the need for chefs to distance themselves from mentors to branch out and reach their shared goal of opening their own restaurant,
If a complaint could be levied against “For Grace” it is that it waits far too long to hone its focus on its subject. The audience learns about his culinary career, the famous chefs he worked under and the difficulties in leaving a restaurant and opening a new one, but it takes a while to finally get into Duffy himself. There’s a turning point where Duffy opens up and talks about a tragic story involving his parents where the film immediately becomes more accessible. Even with that insight, it still seems there is so much about Duffy that remains uncovered.
It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, “For Grace” has on the interest in fine dining experiences to the general public. At $205 a person for the tasting menu, it is hard to imagine fans of the film rushing out to Duffy’s Grace restaurant for a taste of the chef’s world renowned cooking. Though the world of fine dining may be off-putting and hard to crack to the average eater, “For Grace” just skates by on its look into the inner workings of building a restaurant and the sacrifices chefs make to be the best in the world.
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