Canadian actor Aaron Abrams plays a temperamental chef fighting for his restaurant’s survival in this low-budget Canadian film.

One of the hottest fantasy jobs for millennials is to become a high-end chef, and a number of movies have expressed that fantasy, with actors like Jon Favreau (Chef), Bradley Cooper (Burnt) and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart (No Reservations) portraying temperamental cooks. Even the animated film Ratatouille got in on the action. Most of these movies dramatized the egotism and volatility of these chefs, but few have painted quite as devastating a portrait as the low-budget Canadian film Nose to Tail, which tickled audiences at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

The movie, written and directed by first-timer Jesse Zigelstein, takes place over the course of a single day and in a single location — the Toronto restaurant that gifted but irascible chef Daniel (Aaron Abrams) is trying to rescue from financial ruin. His landlord is closing in, his gifted sous-chef is leaving for another job and besides that, his ex-wife arrives to inform him that she is taking their son and moving to Paris. Yet there’s a ray of hope on the horizon: A former classmate and now a financial wizard is bringing a group to dine at the restaurant, with the promise of making a major investment if he likes what he tastes.

That’s all there is to the story, but it’s consistently sharp-edged and even suspenseful, as it makes us wonder not just whether Daniel will find a backer but whether he’ll self-destruct as pressure mounts. Most of the other movies about chefs present their characters as flawed artists, but they usually have redeeming qualities. Nose to Tail is more uncompromising, presenting Daniel as a welter of ego and anger who eventually alienates just about everyone who crosses his path.

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