An established chef from Périgord, Hortense Laborie is engaged to prepare for Mitterand the cuisine de grand-mère, literally. He wants dishes that recall the ones his own grandmother made, in his words "the best of France," and Hortense obliges with magnificent traditional creations. She is fought at every turn by the all-male 24-chef brigade that prepares the official food of the Palace, a somewhat over the top bunch of macho fools, and later by Mitterand's doctors and some petty accountants who call into question her produce orders.
Highlights of the film, for me, were the many spectacular food and cooking scenes and also some beautiful quotes from Edouard Nignon's Éloge de la Cuisine Française (In Praise of French Food), which according the film was Mitterand's favorite cookbook (apparently he loved reading them as a child).
From the start of Nignon's recipe for Caneton de Rouen Surprise: "Du pays de Pierre Corneille . . ." ("From the land of Pierre Corneille . . .").
And Nignon's recipe for saddle of veal: “Order from the land of lush pastures, from Normandy, where the highest quality cows and calves are rampant, a saddle of young veal, whose flesh must be as white as the finest poultry. Gird it, wrap it around four times with string. Cook in blond butter in a shallow braising dish until golden.”
As Mitterand notes, they just don't write like that anymore.
Hortense (Danièle) is brilliantly played by Catherine Frot. The aging Mitterand is played by Jean d'Ormesson, the brilliant author and member of the Académie Française who is making his film debut at age 92. He is charming but not especially convincing; still, it's a bit of a thrill to see him.
Foodies will love this film.