Although the French culinary arts are considered to be incredibly refined and truly of the highest caliber, with many trainees taking years to master the skills, one thing is guaranteed when it comes to the French style of cooking and fine dining—if the passion to learn and practice is there, anyone can learn how to cook and share the French dining experience with the world.
Despite being filmed in America, this short documentary revolves around the beginnings of a classical French restaurant opening in Cleveland, Ohio, Edwins, which works hard to absolutely capture what French cuisine is all about. What makes this French restaurant so unique, is that it serves as an opportunity and school for recently released inmates, attempting to teach them the traditions of French cuisine and fine dining in a six month course. The film, titled Knife Skills, focuses on the first class taking on this challenge, with only six weeks until opening, these former inmates, who have never had any formal training in the French culinary arts, will be rigorously trained in all things French cuisine, from authentic French recipes, to the subtleties of French wine, French regional qualities, and even the diversity of French cheese. Together, the people who are featured in this documentary, who confront the challenge of redemption and the highly refined details of the French culinary art, produce a truly heartwarming story about the human ability to prove oneself against all odds, and prove oneself to be above the mistakes of the past.
Leading this absolutely remarkable journey, is a man who is an ex-inmate himself, Brandon works with a goal to recruit 80 formerly-incarcerated adults, with the help of a head chef, Gilbert. A good portion of the movie has a strong focus on the training that Gilbert delivers, where he is given the immense task of teaching 25 traditional French meals to a class of formerly-incarcerated men and women, from classic french meals such as Tarte de Lapin au Parmesan et jambon en croûte, which is a rabbit pie with a parmesan and prosciutto crust, to Paupiettes de poisson du jour, which is market fish wrapped in crispy potatoes with haricot verts and beurre rouge. Gilbert works hard to look past the fact that none of the men and women he is training have had any training at all; instead, he has the ability to truly believe in the men and women that he is teaching. As someone who comes from France, and knows that anyone has the ability to learn proper French cuisine, as long as they have the right training and true determination, Gilbert helps the men and women in this movie completely believe in themselves, and work towards a future in food, a future they can believe in. Along with the intense training in classical French cuisine, other members of Edwin’s first culinary class work hard to learn how to create a high-quality dining experience, which proves to create an interesting and emotional movie that any audience will truly enjoy.
Ultimately, when the movie was released, 180 formerly-incarcerated adults had made their way through the intensive rehabilitative program, and successfully graduated. With it, they received authentic training in classical French cuisine and hospitality service, which to many, became the greatest chance they received to turn their lives around. Thus, not only is Knife Skills an exploration into the extensive and detailed training that it takes to make it as a classical French restaurant, but it also serves as an incredible movie, showcasing the human experience, as men and women attempt to overcome life-altering mistakes, and save themselves through the French culinary arts.