Written by Chris Morgan
The world of the restaurant business and food has become much more prominent in the realm of television. Of course, a lot of it seems to be in the vein of Guy Fieri going places and yelling about how good the food is without edifying anybody. The movie Three Stars deals with slightly higher fare than Fieri’s ouevre, however. The title of the film is not a bold suggestion for a critic’s rating. It references the Michelin star-ranking system. If they give you three stars, you have accomplished one of the biggest achievements a chef can attain.
Three Stars is a documentary with a European bent to it, which mirrors the similar focus of Michelin. The movie talks to several of the most venerated chefs in the world. All of them except two are based in Europe. The one in America, who’s three-star restaurant is in Trump Tower, seems to be from France originally, and the other is Japanese, where the Michelin testers have just begun. There is also only one woman involved, which is due in part to the fact that so few lady chefs have three-star ratings for their restaurants.
Most of the chefs have three-star restaurants. One has a two star. One used to have a three-star restaurant but gave it all away to start anew without the pressure of retaining his stars. Does any of this sound interesting? If it does, you may be disappointed to find out they don’t really go all that more in depth than these last few sentences did. Considering that this movie is 94 minutes and there are 10 restaurants focused on, with other people like the head of Michelin interviewed, there is not much time to delve into anything. The filmmakers decided not to have a single throughline either. They mostly just skim across the top, jumping in here and there to deal with the general idea of being a highly regarded chef.
You don’t really get to know much about any of the chefs. Some you learn basically nothing about. You also don’t learn a ton about their restaurants, and you get very little sense of the “action.” What you do see is enjoyable and fairly interesting, and the fact that these chefs have different styles of restaurants and demeanor is beneficial in this regard, but it makes up a small part of the movie. It is difficult to really come away with much knowledge about any of these chefs or their businesses from this film, and none of the chefs have a terribly engaging personality, though none of them are dull, either.
Topics like how hard they have to work, the evolution of cooking, and the validity of the Michelin ratings are all touched upon, but not to an ideal degree. As such, Three Stars feels quite slight. It’s not completely without merit. If you have any interest in food or cooking, you can probably glean something worthwhile from it. It is a pretty good documentary, but it would have been wise of the folks behind it if they had decided to either focus on fewer chefs or make the movie longer, or even both. Instead, you essentially get the CliffsNotes version of being an elite chef with a three-star restaurant.