The Proustian Effect of Confit Byaldi!
Ratatouille, the new animated movie from Pixar, about a rat that sneaks around a Paris bistro, adding spices and whatnot to bland dishes. The animators and producers spent a huge amount of time in restaurant kitchens, studying every aspect of a chef’s daily life. One of the consultants was Thomas Keller of The French Laundry. In addition, great effort was spent in getting details of food exactly right – colors, texture, etc. From The NY Times,
The team at Pixar, which is owned by Disney, worked with Mr. Keller and other chefs to create a menu for the restaurant. Michael Warch, manager of the film’s sets and layout department, also holds a culinary degree. He used the kitchens at the Pixar studios in the San Francisco Bay Area to recreate dishes for the animators to study.
Throughout the film, the characters work on dishes like steamed pike with butter, braised fennel and heirloom potatoes or grilled petit filet mignon with oxtail and baby onion ragout topped with truffled bordelaise and shaved Perigord truffle. The idea was to create food so authentic that people would leave the theater with an urge to cook and eat.
The chef’s handiwork is most evident in the final dish, the one on which the entire plot hangs. The dish is the movie’s namesake, and needs to be so special it will impress the restaurant critic.
Mr. Keller cooked a fancy layered version of ratatouille called confit byaldi. “We had to think about what would make the food transformed,” Mr. Keller said. “What would transport him back to his childhood in a Proustian sort of way.”
With the Pixar team recording his every move, Mr. Keller had a last-minute inspiration as he took a palette knife to the vegetables. “When I picked up a layer of the byaldi and it compacted, I realized at that moment how the dish would come together.” The solution was fanning the vegetables out accordion-style.
It opens June 29th.