Opening 18 May 2023
What makes this documentary so fascinating is going into Michelin star restaurant areas where few ever go, plus seeing closeups of artists at work. Agnes Karrasch is She Chef, a poised and self-confidently determined 25-year-old launching herself into a male-dominated profession. Following her apprenticeship at Austria’s esteemed Restaurant Steirereck, we meet Agnes at the 2018 World Cuisine Cup (Kochweltmeisterschaft) as a member of the Austrian, until now, all-male culinary team winning the world cup.
Subsequently, Agnes ambitiously chose three restaurants to work/learn from their chefs and staff for three-month periods. In Bergisch Gladbach, Restaurant Vendôme’s legendary chef Joachim Wissler welcomes Agnes; the kitchen team’s helpfulness and easy comradery compliment closeups of them under pressure preparing intricate French-based dishes. In Barcelona, three chefs own/run Disfrutar (Enjoy!) wholeheartedly receive Agnes into their compact kitchen with its well-run staff. On the remote Faroe Islands, KOKS small staff wear many hats and rotate duties, including picking up guests—only 24-dinners are served nightly—and collecting mussels. Agnes is a fast learner, focused, and mixes in well making her an asset to any team.
Directors Gereon Wetzel and Melanie Liebheit’s behind-the-scenes fly-on-the-wall approach in top-class kitchens is illuminating: the artistry and attention to minute details; the specialized kitchen utensils that chefs meticulously care for; the kitchen and front-of-house teams’ commitment; the willing teamwork, the savoir faire. Agnes is forthright about her goals of breaking down barriers for parity of position/income for women, and more sustainability. She talks about language challenges while working in Spain and coping with coronavirus closures.
Gereon Wetzel’s creative close-range camerawork on hands/facial expressions speaks volumes watching the painstaking preparation of tables at the elegant Vendôme to the casual exactness of Disfruta and the comfortable austerity at KOKS. Roland Stöttinger’s editing blends the many components from Agnes’ frank reactions and thoughtful approach to the different personalities and characteristics at each venue; Wolf-Maximilian Liebich’s score. She Chef is a visual smorgasbord, and it reveals how few, if any, women are in these kitchens. (Marinell Haegelin)