For Grace: A Film About Personal Sacrifice and Cooking at Grand River Film Festival

For Grace: A Film About Personal Sacrifice and Cooking at Grand River Film Festival

The Grand River Film Festival (GRFF) is screening For Grace, a documentary about food, family and sacrifice, by film-makers Mark Helenowski and Kevin Pang, on Friday, November 6, beginning at 9:15 p.m. at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture in Cambridge.

For tickets for the film and for more information about GRFF, visit here.

For cook Curtis Duffy, who has worked with chefs Grant Achatz and and the late Charlie Trotter, a restaurant kitchen became a refuge after personal tragedy struck. He’s now one of the country’s most renowned chefs and building his dream restaurant — but found himself at another point of personal crisis.

Duffy, who as a teen fought and stole for the thrill, discovered his place in the kitchen after a home economics teacher nurtured his talents. After an unimaginable tragedy involving his parents, Duffy pursued a cooking career ardently and this intense drive earned him accolades as one of the country’s most renowned chefs. But as he began building his dream restaurant in Chicago, called Grace, Duffy found himself cooking at the cost of his marriage and two young daughters.


“The original premise of the movie was a 20-minute short film for the Chicago Tribune website about the mechanics of opening a fine-dining establishment,” according to Helenowski and Pang. “Curtis Duffy, who worked in some of the country’s most important kitchens, was building his own restaurant and allowed us to film the process. But as is the case with most restaurant build-outs, delays reared its ugly head. What was intended for eight months of construction took 18. Eventually, we got tired of filming blueprints and electrical wiring, so we started asking about his upbringing.

“That’s when the film took a 90-degree turn. Where he came from, his childhood turmoil, and the irony of how it ripped apart his current family — forgive the cliché, but there was something Shakespearean in its tragedy. At the same time, there were hopeful qualities in his quest to become the best chef in the country. Bingo: Right then, we knew we couldn’t tell the story in just 20 minutes.”

The result is a film that is about more than food and cooking. “We wanted a film that would resonate with our mothers,” the film-makers said. What they created was a glimpse into shared human experiences rather than merely “high-end dishes and rare ingredients.”

“There were a number of these experiences we wanted to capture: the drive for perfection; the sacrifice required to achieve a dream; the Sisyphian strive for balance. We find the most compelling stories are usually about people with a lot at stake. Curtis Duffy fits the bill,” said the film-makers.

For Grace is a documentary about food, family, sacrifice, and the journey from concrete box to opening night of one of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants.

Check out more about GRFF and For Grace here.

[ Image: For Grace ]
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