Back to IndieWire

The Inspiration Behind ‘Haute Cuisine’ Dishes On Cooking For The President

The Inspiration Behind 'Haute Cuisine' Dishes On Cooking For The President

I’m not a ‘foodie.’ I like sandwiches — the simple things. That’s why I was initially hesitant over a screening of a two hour film about French cuisine and a Q&A with the film’s inspiration. I thought I’d be lost as first, second and third dishes were endlessly analyzed and flavors were discussed. Though some of that did happen in The Weinstein Company’s drama “Haute Cuisine,” the movie left me hungry for more.

Based on a true story, the film centers on Hortense Laborie (played beautifully by Catherine Frot), who at the onset of the film is asked to become the first female personal cook for the French President, François Mitterrand. Though initially shocked and reluctant by her appointment of making all of the President’s meals, she thrusts herself into her work creating mouthwatering and authentically French cuisine. Despite jealous resentment from the other kitchen staff, Hortense
quickly establishes herself, thanks to her indomitable spirit.

Following the screening, hosted by The Weinstein Company and The Daily Meal, the film’s real-life subject Danièle Delpeuch joined the audience to answer questions about the film and her remarkable life. Below find some of the highlights. The Weinstein Company opens the film in select theaters this Friday, September 20th.


When asked about how the Palace Chef position became available to her:

I had a friend for a long time and one day she said you should meet my cousin. I said, ‘Who is your cousin?’ ‘My cousin Joel Robuchon (French chef and restaurateur earning the title of ‘Chef of the Century’ by the guide Gault Millau in 1989), you don’t know that?’ One day I called Joel Robuchon but I was very intimidated. It was funny, he gave me an appointment at ten minutes before 12 and his restaurant was open. This means you have five minutes to go out. I give you five minutes no more. So I understood the message and I was on time and I went with one of my daughters Julia. We are both quite intimidated and finally stayed till six at night.

“We had the best talk. That was a year and a half before the palace story. When the president said, ‘I am fed up with the Cuisine De Chef! I want a woman in my kitchen.’ He (Robuchon) said, ‘I have somebody.’ It was as simple as that. Nobody asked me if I knew how to cook.”

When asked about the traditional food featured in the film and how it relates to the diet culture of today:

“We can’t eat like this anymore everyday. Nobody can. Even if I would like to, I can’t. In the film you have ten, maybe twelve different recipes. Some are very simple some are more elaborate. I studied in the palace two years and it’s more than just the cooking, it’s day to day cooking. It’s the cooking we have at home. In France and I know almost everywhere, not every day, for Sunday’s or family feast we have this type of cooking.’

Her thoughts on cooking:

“Cooking for me is a passport for adventures. I like to cook but I’m not looking to make a profession. I prefer adventures. When you cook well you can go anywhere. It’s a beautiful passport.”

On the type of food she would cook for the president.

“The last thing I would dream to do in my life is to be a president of my country because it’s very hard work and it’s very difficult and people are never happy. It’s a terrible job and of course President and Minsters are people and they need to have some rest with food. You have a lovely word for this which we don’t have which is ‘comfort food’ — at some point to be just well with food. You don’t need to see a plate with some kind of complicated thing.”

On the way she cooks:

“I cook the way I breathe.”

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox