As much as I enjoy documentary programs on TV, it’s quite rare that I watch documentary movies at the cinema. However, when I received a chance to see Finding Gaston, I was quite intrigued by the film and decided to go without knowing too much about it – other than the fact that the movie’s from Peru.
Finding Gaston is about Gaston Acurio – a Peruvian chef who is widely credited for bringing Peruvian cuisines to the world. Gaston was initially destined to be a lawyer, however, his passion to cook ended up taking him to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where he met his wife, Astrid. They returned to Peru and opened their first restaurant, Astrid y Gastón. They initially positioned it as a French restaurant which then slowly transformed itself to serve Peruvian cuisines. Patricia Perez – the director – tantalises the viewers with close-ups of Gaston’s creations, including those concocted by his talented staff. We also learn about Gaston’s philosophy about food and how it is related to peaceful revolution – and how his achievement in introducing Peruvian cuisines to the world is linked to improving the national sense of self.
The movie is quite unstructured – as there is no clear anchoring of timing. It fluidly moves and captures Gaston’s close relationship with the farmers, producers and fishermen as well as his vision to encourage more people to cook – including children and those less well-off. The hopping around can be quite taxing especially since you don’t know where Perez is taking you next. It’s fine in a horror or whodunit movie, but in a documentary where you rely on some semblance of structure to anchor your interest, the lack of clear sequencing is the weakness in this documentary.
What I take from this movie is Gaston’s philosophy about cooking – that one should always respect the ingredients that they work with. The life of a fish, a crab or a chicken ends as it lies in your kitchen, and it is the duty of those who cook it in celebrating its life in treating it with respect and creating something worth savouring. I’ve never thought of cooking this way and perhaps everybody who works in the kitchen should have this philosophy as well when they work with all of the ingredients.
Although I am not much of a fish eater, Finding Gaston makes me want to visit a Peruvian restaurant right after the movie! If you want to catch the movie, Finding Gaston is part of the 2015 Spanish Film Festival line-up.