There have been many a story of a chef who came from nothing and won the hearts of many. But there is something quite special about Sugar and Stars. Sure, it’s a rags to riches story based on an actual living person. But this film taps into something raw and intimate, all the while magical and whimsical.
Yazid, like all children, has a dream. Not to be an astronaut or a firefighter. Yazid wants to be a pastry chef and train with the best. His dreams, while ambitious, aren’t going to be easy.
His mother, an alcoholic with little interest in Yazid or his baby brother has failed him on multiple accounts. The only way he can even practice making any form of dessert is to steal ingredients from the local supermarket.
Eventually Yazid is forced into a foster home where he is finally shown what being part of a loving stable home is. With nothing but support, Yazid sets in motion his plan to become the world’s greatest pastry chef.
His journey isn’t an easy one. His wit is sometimes not always appreciated by others. His short temper certainly doesn’t make matters any easier. While he knows his weaknesses and for the most part does what he can to better himself. It’s his passion, dedication and talent as a pastry chef that earns him the respect he desires.
Entering a world pastry competition, Yazid finally has the chance to prove everyone who ever doubted him wrong. And prove to himself, he is not that forgotten child he once was.
The casting of Yazid is easily one of perfection. The character is played by Algerian, Riadh Belaiche. There are few actors who can say more by saying nothing, Belaiche is one who manages to give the audience a glimpse into his inner thoughts. There is this turmoil within him. This battle between wanting to be great and being great. Belaiche balances this emotional rollercoaster with perfection letting the audience in on the ride.
The other ingredient to this film that incites the senses, is the cinematography. There is this beautiful moment between Yazid and the ingredients he’s about to use. The lights dim and it becomes a sensual intimacy between the two. Its raw ingredients glide across the screen and fold into each other making what sometimes feels like a moment we shouldn’t be experiencing with Yazid and his dessert.
While the story is very much a rags to riches one and for the most part the viewer is taken on a journey to watch Yazid’s rise to fame. The film takes on this sometimes whimsical side as well. It’s the “stars” part of the title. As Yazid works at a Michelin star hotel, he sleeps under the stars. A poetic notion, though I’m sure it wasn’t as glamorous at the time. It does tend to take away from the gritty reality of an emotionally abusive mother or living in foster care. But it adds a somewhat, “believe in yourself”, “there’s a higher power” notion.
This one will surprise you. Sure there’s plenty of stories about famous chefs and how they came to be. But there is something special about Sugar and Stars. It feels like you’re being invited into something emotionally raw and a sometimes intimate experience. If you’re not immediately mesmerised by Riadh Belaiche you’ll be hungry with the delicious camera work making the ingredients even tastier.