“I had never heard of the MOF before Kings of Pastry,” said the curly-haired woman next to me, “I was amazed by how much those chefs gave to that thing. There’s not even a cash prize!” “That’s how it is with the really serious cooking competitions,” quipped the man next to her from under his NY Mets cap, “it’s a whole different ball game to them. None of this $10,000-prize- plus-new-kitchen-appliances stuff. It’s about the honor; the medal.”
There I was, at a community meeting in my New York neighborhood, when suddenly the conversation veered away from the local composting center and right into Lyon and the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. The meeting was coming to a close, and the attendees were starting to gather around the large table in the back of the room, where appetizers and drinks were laid out. I had been munching on a chicken empanada when someone asked me for the name of the film company I work at. Before I could finish my response, “Pennebaker Hegedus Fil—“, three people shouted out all once, “Kings of Pastry!” I laughed, surprised, and said “yes, that’s right.” I was expecting someone to say, “They did the Dylan movie” or “Oh yeah, The War Room.” But no, Kings of Pastry was the film that came to mind. Still smiling, I asked them what they enjoyed most about the film. Was it Jacquy’s journey? The pastries? The drama?
“What are you talking about? King of what?” asked a woman who had just joined the group and was trying to wrestle a piece of calamari out of a cup of dipping sauce.“Kings of Pastry” Mets cap said, “it’s about this cooking competition in France and . . .”
Over the course of the twenty-minute conversation that ensued, I didn’t say a single word. I didn’t have to; the people who had seen Kings of Pastry remembered every petite detail of its plot. They took turns giving the others a play-by-play run through of the whole thing, often interrupting and elaborating on each other’s descriptions. By the time they got to the judges’ evaluations, there were at least ten people listening. And more were starting to linger around our corner of the table.
Having finished their lively and extensive review of the film and the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France, the KOP fans began to answer questions from their audience. “What sorts of pastries did the MOF call for?” “What happened to the winning chefs after the competition?” “And to those who didn’t receive The Collar?” At one point, a listener speculated about whether or not the French owner of the local (and acclaimed) bakery is a MOF. “I don’t think so,” the curly-haired lady said, “I don’t think he wears the collar.” “Are you sure? But maybe he tried for it? After all, he was the head pastry chef at the Waldorf Astoria,” someone else added and the group murmured along. “I’ll ask the next time I stop in” was the general consensus.
Once the snack table had been fully pillaged, everyone began to trickle out the door and into the street. As I was zipping up my coat, I heard someone to my side say, “Oh, excuse me.” I turned and there was the calamari wrestler. “Excuse me,” she said, “but where I can I watch that movie?”
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