If that shouty chef from "Hell's Kitchen" were an ordained Buddhist priest, he might be something like Edward Espe Brown.
The subject of Doris Dorrie's documentary, "How to Cook Your Life," and author of the popular Tassajara cookbook series, Brown is a gentle, sensitive soul who knows his ingredients and has definite ideas about how things should be done in the kitchen. And he can get pretty impatient, especially for a Zen master, when people don't do things his way.
That's where the similarities to Gordon Ramsay end. Brown teaches spiritual well-being along with food preparation, and he's a warm, funny and often quite insightful guru most of the time. His doubts, occasional tears and minor rages only make him a more accessible messenger of simple but profound life lessons, which boil down to such Be Here Now basics as focus on whatever you're doing and do it with love, humility and as little extra baggage as you can.
Dorrie ranges beyond the Northern California temples and dining rooms that are Brown's regular haunts to perform a wider survey of how and what we eat, and what that says about us. It's scattershot, but intelligent enough.
The spotlight, though, is mainly on Brown at work, cooking and teaching. The food, of course, looks wonderful, and the words are worth hearing, depending on your taste for sometimes flaky-crusted philosophy.
German filmmaker Dorrie is more often associated with feminist-themed comedies ("Men," "Me and Him") that are far more doctrinaire than anything suggested here. A sense of liberation and free-form possibility wafts from Brown's kitchens, even as everybody in them busily bakes, chops and blends according to the chef's precise instructions. *