A film by Erika Frankel
Fiery French chef Georges Perrier is on a crusade to save his world-renowned restaurant, Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia, from closing. Over the past four decades, times and tastes have changed and what was once cutting edge is now out of favor. King Georges is the story of a determined, tragi-comic figure, and his fight – sometimes futile – to keep tradition alive.
Young Perrier arrived in America in the 1960s, part of the first wave of French chefs who introduced the country to grand European-style dining. Soon after he opened Le Bec- Fin in 1970, he was receiving rave reviews from The New York Times, making guest appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman and attracting everyone from Princess Grace to French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and scores of tourists to Philadelphia to dine at his restaurant, or just to have their picture taken in front if they couldn’t afford to go inside. He inspired today’s titans of the food world – people like Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller – to go into the business.
His Napoleonic presence, thick French accent and penchant for screaming, throwing plates and de-corking champagne bottles with a sword helped to build his legend. But underneath his commanding presence, he struggles with the demands of a grueling profession. His life revolves around work and at age 67, the pressure to keep things functioning at the high level he set forty years ago, is “killing me,” he says.
As the generation that grew up with Le Bec-Fin fades, a new one rises and this younger crowd wants lighter food in a casual atmosphere. Will Perrier be able to break with tradition and embrace change to stay afloat?
He brings in young chef Nicholas Elmi to adapt the restaurant to changing times, but it is a marriage of opposites. Nick is quiet and peaceful while Perrier is a loud whirlwind. They fight over how much cream to use in sauces and agree that Perrier will begin to retire so Nick can take over the restaurant, but Perrier cannot let go – he insists on doing the dishes every night as the dishwashers stand around idle.
As all of the other French restaurants of his era close – Lutece, La Cote Basque – Perrier fights harder for the old way. He is the last man standing of his generation, but how long can he reign?
KING GEORGES will be making its world premiere at Full Frame 2015.
Director: Erika Frankel