“The Passion of Dodin Bouffant”: 3 questions for Pierre Gagnaire

King of stews and pâtés, he devotes a cult to the culinary art which he practices with the complicity of his talented cook Eugénie Chatagne. Adapted for the cinema by Vietnamese director Tran Ahn Hung with respectively Benoît Magimel and Juliette Binoche in the main roles, “The Passion of Dodin Bouffant” is the latest gastronomic film to shake up the culinary scene. Already awarded an award at the Cannes Film Festival and tipped to represent France at the Oscars, this declaration of love for French gastronomy was built with the complicity of the multi-starred chef, Pierre Gagnaire, who shares his adventure with us.

Gastronomy elevated to the rank of Art

This mouth-watering film is not to be watched on an empty stomach. A vibrant homage to bourgeois cuisine, it presents a farandole of dishes, each more delicious than the last. Vol-au-vent, rack of veal, braised lettuce, ortolans (replaced by quail on screen), turbot, Norwegian omelette… all were chosen in accordance with Tran Ahn Hung’s vision and requirements. I won my case with the live frogs which would have jumped everywhere!
The dishes correspond to a truth verified even in the choice of the crockery by a historical advisor. Filmed with a lot of poetry, they required a lot of work from my collaborator Michel Nave who took over on the set by cooking them all in real life. And it shows in the image! It wasn’t easy to bring them to the screen because it had to go very quickly. Time is very complicated to manage at the cinema. This is the big difference with the restaurant where the dish is the object of desire. On screen, we are at the service of a story. The real challenge is to be connected. We had to start again each time it was necessary. So there was not one turbot and a Norwegian omelette but at least ten turbots and as many omelettes. Don’t worry, everything has been eaten!

Eugénie, a modern and committed woman

Eugénie demonstrates common sense and great modernity by cooking local, seasonal vegetables from the garden. She juggles with virtuosity between the different dishes, like in a ballet, thanks to the gentle camera movements which give both a slow and dynamic look. A highly technical but very realistic vision. Contrary to what some people think, Eugénie does this job, without being constrained, by holding her own place in a kitchen and expressing her love for others, which she receives in return, with just as much happiness.
Like Eugénie, I have a lot of trouble sitting down and enjoying the people at the table. For me, cooking is a total act of love, in the service of others. You have to be a little in the shadows in this profession. But we can hold our place in the shadows, keeping a small distance like Eugénie does. And just like every human adventure is never the work of just one man. In this sense, this film can be considered as a tribute to the collaborators and clerks.

© Stéphanie Branchu

Being a gourmet, an education that is refined over time

Like Dodin Bouffant, I think that “being a gourmet is impossible before the age of 40”. I was at 50 when I sat down to eat my cooking. Before, when I cooked I dedicated myself entirely to cooking. I often say that cooking has a very complicated relationship with food. When he cooks, he doesn’t eat. He must be in good shape, have something under his feet to give pleasure but not with a full stomach. In a broader sense, Paul Valéry said: “at 40, we become who we really are. » I quite agree. Afterwards it’s like everything in life, some understand at 25 and others at 50 still haven’t understood anything. To become a gourmet, to distinguish flavors and to be competent, you need time, taste a lot and never stop comparing.

The word of hunger

I am pleased to defend this film which pays homage to the profession of cooking, the French language, nature and human relationships. It only delivers good feelings, accuracy, balance, moderation and restraint, without gluttony.
I hope that it will go as far as possible, that it will find its audience and that it will have the success it deserves because it pays homage to beauty, elegance, gentleness, sincerity and ‘love.

“The Passion of Dodin Bouffant” by Tran Ahn Hung with Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel, in theaters November 8, 2023


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