The culinary term “Nose to Tail” is a philosophy — a chef who turns her or his talents to finding a use for everything in a purchased carcass in the food served at the restaurant.
You don’t have to go to Spain any more to be served a bull’s tail, ears and snout, for instance.
In the Canadian dramedy “Nose to Tail,” Chef Daniel, taken to sweaty, intense self-absorbed extremes by Aaron Abrams, applies that philosophy to people, too. He uses them up entirely, leaving little to waste in pursuit of what his ego convinces him is his “vision.”
His unnamed Toronto fine dining establishment is underwater and almost beyond resuscitation. But he’s convinced this one day will make or break him. IF he can put off the landlord a little longer. IF he can hang onto staff. IF he can get his hands on the finest ingredients available — the freshest carrots, talk his supplier down on the price of that prime, Mangalitsa hog. IF he can avoid childcare issues pushed by his French Canadian ex-wife (Carolina Bartczak). IF he can brush off his hostess/lover Chloe (Lara Jean Chorostecki), who is trying to give him PR info he needs to know, and get an idea of what the nature of their “relationship” is.
IF he can only plan, polish, cook and serve the seven course meal of his life to a group of well-heeled investors, each course paired with wine, the entire presentation introduced by him in his minimalist, “preserve the mystery” style, entrees that “have stand-alone integrity.”
That “one meal that can save my business” trope is as old as “Big Night,” and it turns up everywhere. What makes or breaks “Nose to Tail” will be the details of the milieu, and our fascination with the egomaniac most at home in it.
Watch Daniel dismember that pricey pig, hear him eviscerate his chef de cuisine (Brandon McKnight) for wanting to move on and run his own kitchen elsewhere.
“JUDAS!” is the printable part of that tirade, and as we’ve seen Dan berate Keith for not being there all night, with the same passing-out-at-his-desk dedication Daniel is convinced he brings to the gig, we can understand why Keith is leaving. As we’ve also seen Daniel still-instructing this dishwasher that Daniel turned into a rising star cooking talent to be reckoned with, we kind of get his point, too.
And on tonight of all nights!
Daniel chews out liquor suppliers, and chews out his trusted sommelier (Salvatore Antonio) for telling him that none of them will extend him credit, any more.
Daniel goes toe-to-toe with a self-important food blogger (Lauren Collins), who seems to revel in baiting him and gives as good as she gets.
And then there’s “the hottest food truck in town,” setting up shop just across the street from his gastronomical Mecca, a poke-in-the-eye reminder that he’s not the young, the new, the hip young trend-setter he once was.
Abrams, of TV’s “Hannibal,” chews up these chewing-outs and plays up all the elements that have made the guy who he is — ego, culinary training, an inheritance-financed eatery that he is slaving over, but raging, drinking, abusing and pill-popping into oblivion.
Chorestecki, who like Abrams had a supporting role on “Hannibal,” suggests someone wise to the ways of this world and the perils of an “office romance” within it, but flinty enough to to endure it, recognizing talent and making emotional allowances for it.
Writer-director Jesse Zigelstein gets points for detail and narrowing the focus of his debut feature. He loses points by covering over-familiar ground in a story whose dramatic arc is as pre-ordained as a menu.
“Nose to Tail” winds up as a mixed-bag, with not enough kitchen detail to reward foodies, an under-developed supporting cast, most of the staff characters reduced to barking “YES chef!” the way we’ve seen them follow orders in scores of kitchen-centric tales that preceded it.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, profanity
Cast: Aaron Abrams, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Salvatore Antoni, Lauren Collins and Brandon McKnight.
Credits: Written and directed by Jesse Zigelstein. A 1091 release.
Running time: 1:22