Review by Sean Boelman
Abby Ainsworth’s new documentary Stage: The Culinary Internship provides an in-depth dive into the world of professional chefs. And while it doesn’t recognize all of its strengths, the film documents some really fascinating processes that haven’t been seen quite like this.
The movie follows a group of aspiring chefs who embark on a nine-month internship at one of the most acclaimed and exclusive restaurants in the world. This story is definitely very different from that of a majority of cooking docs, many of which follow chefs that are already established with restaurants of their own.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the film is when it follows the chefs and apprentices as they formulate the restaurant’s menu of experimental dishes that defy the cooking conventions. It’s interesting to see how these chefs, both experienced and novice, show their ingenuity through the unique food they prepare.
Of course, the movie features plenty of gorgeous shots of this food being prepared and served. Unlike a lot of other food documentaries that are reliant on the viewer finding the food appetizing, much of the appeal here comes from the curiosity viewers will feel about the obscurity of the cuisine.
The editing and cinematography both do a very good job of making the viewer feel as if they are in the moment. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the story and feel like one is actually in this kitchen where creativity flows freely. This is largely a new sensation when it comes to the genre, and it works quite well.
That said, the portions of the film that explore the chef’s individual experiences aren’t as compelling. At just an hour and eighteen minutes in length, the movie isn’t really able to go into as much depth with each of the apprentices as one would like. Perhaps a longer, serialized format would have been more conducive to this story as a result.
Regardless, audiences will undeniably respect these chefs for their passion and dedication to their craft. The beginning of the film introduces some of the apprentices and allows them to talk about why they chose to participate in the stage. Although it would have been nice to spend more time with them, their stories are still inspirational as presented.
Stage: The Culinary Internship is a must-watch for any cooking enthusiast. It’s a quick and satisfying watch with a perspective that is massively different from what you have seen before.
Stage: The Culinary Internship screens in partnership with indie theaters beginning May 29. A list of participating locations can be found here.