When you first hear that there’s a new movie depicting a French chef’s experience cooking for the president of France in the Élysée Palace, the last thing you may think is that you’re going to get a lesson in feminism, but you might be surprised.
Haute Cuisine, a new film produced by The Weinstein Company, tells the story of Daniele Mazet-Delpeuch, a female French cook who was hired by the President of the Republic of France François Mitterrand in the late '80s. Craving the country French cooking he grew familiar with as a child, the president cast aside his ranks of serious male chefs at the palace and hired Mazet-Delpeuch to be his private cook so she could serve him with the elegant yet comforting dishes that he yearned for.
Mazet-Delpeuch’s trials began right at the start, working in the palace with male chefs who were unwelcoming to her joining their team, and the film depicts her experience of overcoming the challenges she faced while working in a male-dominated space — at the palace and later on working as a cook at all-male French station in Antarctica.
The movie, filled with charming scenes of friendship between Mazet-Delpeuch and Mitterrand as well as romanticized takes of French cooking, happened by chance, she explained to The Daily Meal. After reading a profile of her that was published in the French newspaper Le Monde (something that came out of her meeting a journalist at a mutual friend’s dinner party), the film’s producer Étienne Comar contacted Mazet-Delpeuch about making a film of her life. After much conversation, money raising, and her own deliberation, she decided to allow Comar to do the film, out of the respect she held for his work and the fact that she would be able to prevent any falsified information, about herself or the president, from being presented in the film, she explained.
The film portrays Mazet-Delpeuch as a strong, persevering French woman and should empower women everywhere to shrug off oppression set forth by their opposite gender, but according to her, it was unintentional. Surveying her experiences, you’ll observe that she surrounds herself with quite a lot of men, but it was never something deliberate or something that was supposed to prove a point. Mazet-Delpeuch’s life experiences came to her because of very simple values she lived by. "I feel something is right, so I do it," she told The Daily Meal in reference to her career decisions, and that is what encouraged her to push herself into roles she was not readily accepted for. When she applied for the position at the French station in Antarctica, she was told the desired applicant’s age was much younger and that they were only accepting males. It wasn’t until looking back in retrospect did she realize what an impact she was making for the woman psyche.
Her career grew during a time when women were valued less than men in the workforce — especially a culinary one — and through the film, she is able to send a message to women everywhere that when you work hard enough, you will succeed, no matter what challenges you face, related to gender or otherwise.
"As a woman, you can’t accept something as a difficult thing because you’re a woman," she said, and she proved that point through her successful tenures as chef at Élysée Palace and with the role she was eventually able to win, chef at the station in Antarctica. Other accomplishments she achieved during her career include running a cooking school in her native region —also known as the great truffle and foie gras capital of France — Perigord and truffle farms both there and in New Zealand.
Mazet-Delpeuch’s words of wisdom ring true for women everywhere, whether they're working as an executive chef in a five-star restaurant's kitchen or as CEO of a publicly traded company. And while she faced challenges due to her gender, they in no way affect her feelings for the opposite sex. "I love men!" she exclaimed during her interview with The Daily Meal, "and I deeply believe that men are not my enemies."