“It’s a story about food, family, balance and sacrifice.”
For any keen foodie, the lifestyle of a chef seems like one of dreams. You are, essentially, being paid for doing something you genuinely love to do. The food you cook even brings joy to others, as an added bonus. Your customers are happy, you’re happy; what else could you ask for? Well, as made evident in For Grace, there are a few people that fall victim to this ‘dream’, and they’re (arguably) the most important in the world.
Curtis Duffy, one of America’s most renowned chefs, begins the film at the helm of a two Michelin star restaurant. For those unfamiliar with the label, think of it almost like an Academy Award for cuisine. It’s frequently regarded by chefs as ‘the only guide that counts’; every top chef that aspires to be among the elite, aspires to helm a Michelin starred restaurant. Duffy decides he’s achieved all he can at his current place of employment, and sets forth on the arduous process of building his own establishment.
It’s a meticulous journey - its eye-opening how intricate his plans and details are. Every little thing is considered, and it’s clear no expense is spared when trying to implement his design. It’s fascinating to watch the building process, however, it’s evident this mainly serves as a metaphor for the life of the man himself. And here, unfortunately, is my only issue with the documentary: this movie isn’t really about food; it’s much rather focused on the three other aspects of the quote above.
Duffy’s life has been far from smooth-sailing. A troubled childhood, and an unimaginable life-event, left Duffy in a bleak state. Fortunately, with the awakening of this talent, and the support of his home economics teacher, he found his life path. As his reputation in food grew, the distance between him and his family (a wife and two kids) grew.
The life of an elite chef, runs something like this: Wake up, prep, service, sleep. Duffy says 16-18 hours of his day are occupied by Grace - the name of his new restaurant. Because of this, he and his wife divorced; it just isn’t feasible to sustain a family in that kind of lifestyle. He’s suffered loss after loss in his life, and with Grace, he’s leaving his past behind him, and paving the way for a better future.
For Grace is by no means the riveting masterclass on cuisine I was admittedly hoping it to be. However, it is a well-told feature of an ambitious man with an exceptional story and feverish determination. Many will question the purpose of living a life so purely focused on their work, yet, many also lack the talent – and the artistry – of Duffy. For Grace is a reminder that our actions (or reactions, in this case), define who we are.
Grace is now a three-starred restaurant - the highest acclaim in the world of cuisine.