Chef Curtis Duffy has worked in several Michelin Star earning restaurants throughout his career, and he has positioned himself to open his own restaurant, Grace, in Chicago’s trendy West Loop. A talented, oddly calm, focused, and unflappable veteran in the kitchen, nothing can prepare him for the stresses, cost overruns, and delays he faces in trying to make a name for himself.
The surprising and disarming power of For Grace can’t be understated. It’s not merely an inside look at how hard it is to open a restaurant. It’s much more than that. It’s a portrait of a man who rose up from a rough childhood and the lessons he has learned along the way. It’s an intimate look at the physical, mental, and social stress that chefs place on themselves in a cutthroat, erratic, and fickle industry. It also moves outward from the personal to give a remarkably comprehensive overview of a difficult industry as a whole. From the minutiae of how a dish comes together to the different types of mentorships chefs can offer (both positive and negative), the film functions as both microcosm and macrocosm. As it moves towards its climax, the film becomes remarkably cathartic and unexpectedly meditative, with not one, but two exceptional motivational speeches about how restaurants are nothing without the customers and the dedicated staff that seeks to please them.
Chicago Tribune reporter Kevin Pang and filmmaker Mark Helenowski initially employ a style that starts off feeling like a video one would see on a newspaper website, but that only lasts for the first fifteen minutes of necessary set up before branching out into beautifully unexpected directions. In the already overcrowded subgenre of documentaries about foodies and restaurants, For Grace stands head and shoulders above even its closest of comparable films.