To our ears, the term "family restaurant" typically applies to the mom-and-pop eatery one visits for a repast of club sandwiches or greasy eggs and bacon.
Entre le Bras (the English title Step Up to the Plate is a vaguely embarrassing translation) offers a more exalted iteration of that institution.
Bras is a French restaurant rated three Michelin stars, which roughly translates as expensive cuisine at its most rarified.
Chef Michel Bras, the man who put the Aubrac region restaurant on the culinary map, is about to pass the whisk to his son Sébastien, who has been toiling in his dad's shadow for the past 15 years and is now ready to emerge in the spotlight.
But this is not a simple matter of relinquishing a box of recipe cards. Make no mistake: These two men are artists.
The first few minutes of the film are devoted to the delicate construction of the restaurant's signature "le gargouillou," a vegetable salad in which each exotic ingredient is placed on the plate with the care and precise deliberation George Seurat may have expended on one of his pointillist paintings.
The transition of the Bras brand from father to son is not as simple as it seems.
Tradition weighs heavily. When he was a young boy, Michel's mother (also a chef) made him his own chef's uniform, an outfit Sébastien inherited when he was a boy. The suggestion is that, in this family, vocation may be a forgone conclusion.
Yet the film captures a certain tension between father and son. It mostly rests on Sébastien, a creative and competent chef (we watch him experiment in the kitchen concocting amazing-looking dishes) who nevertheless clearly feels the weight of that legacy.
This film sprang from a TV documentary series a decade back in which director Paul Lacoste profiled some of France's best chefs. Michel Bras clearly warranted a revisit because of the changeover, and because of his apparent willingness to allow the cameras into his creative process. It is in this aspect that the film is most worthwhile.
But this is not a film for food-porn enthusiasts seeking tawdry sensation.
Reality TV chefs tend to make themselves memorable on the strength of their ballistic flare-ups -- hello Gordon Ramsay. The pere-et-fils personalities in the Bras kitchen are merely set on a slow simmer, and accordingly require a little patience in appreciating them.
Entre le Bras
(Step Up to the Plate)
Directed by Paul Lacoste
óè 87 minutes