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'King Georges' cooks up a poignant, funny overview of chef Perrier's Le Bec-Fin restaurant in Philadelphia

 'King Georges' cooks up a poignant, funny overview of chef Perrier's Le Bec-Fin restaurant in Philadelphia
Chefs Georges Perrier, left and Nick Elmi in Erika Frankel's documentary "King Georges." (1500 Walnut Films / Sundance Select)

An impassioned veteran of classic French cuisine, chef Georges Perrier and the Philadelphia institution he ran for more than 40 years — Le Bec-Fin — are the subjects of Erika Frankel's charming, spirited documentary "King Georges."

Channeling the you-are-there dynamism of verité masters D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles brothers, but with interview sprinklings (Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud), Frankel ushers us into the controlled chaos of perfectionist Perrier's world at a time when the trappings of French fine dining — heavily sauced and fussy dishes served with ceremonial flair, damask-covered walls, expensive chandeliers, clientele in ties or gowns — were losing favor in America.

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Yet Perrier's dedication to running his kitchen, even in his late '60s, is formidable: buying produce at the market at 4 a.m.; frantically redoing a burned batch of his famous crab cakes and screaming all the while; even vacuuming a hallway himself during service. With typical French bluster, Perrier calls the restaurant "my wife, my mistresses, my burden."

Over years of filming, Frankel captured the emotional push/pull of Perrier's decision to close his gastronomic temple, plus the concerted efforts of his acclaimed chef/partner Nicholas Elmi, whom fans of "Top Chef" will recognize, to keep his mentor's traditions alive. Ultimately, it's the pair's relationship — the pugnacious, demanding master and his young, level-headed protégé — that becomes the simmering heart of this poignant, funny and well-seasoned portrait of autumnal fervor.

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'King Georges'

No rating

Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood

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