Holiday time is coming, it’s time to enjoy movies in the comfort of your own home with friends and family. Here are five movies that we recommend for food lovers.
By Laurence Civil
Of the five films we have select four share the connection of running a Michelin Star Restaurant and what it takes to be awarded the precious Michelin Stars. One humorously looks at why have a rat with culinary talent in the kitchen. The fifth a tribute to the wife of American diplomats wife being posted to Paris with her husband used her time there to master the art of French cuisine and on her returned to The States shared her passion and experience with generations of American. All five films are available to legally download on Netflix.
Hundred Foot Journey (2014) Helen Mirren, Om Puri Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Displaced from their native India, the Kadam family, led by Papa (Om Puri), settles in the quaint village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in the south of France. Filled with charm, it is both picturesque and elegant – the ideal place to settle down and open an Indian restaurant, Maison Mumbai.
It was while cleaning up an abandoned restaurant Hassan finds mildewed copies of Cordon Bleu cook books which opens his eyes to French cuisine. At the same time he strikes up a friendship with Marguerite sous chef Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin-starred, classical French restaurant run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirrem) that’s on the opposite side of the road, just 100 feet away.
She isn’t comfortable with Maison Mumbai opening opposite her refined restaurant. She crosses the road demanding that they turn down the music and on her way out picks up a copy of the menu on her way out. Knowing that crayfish and mushroom are the key ingredients of their signature dish she buys the town’s entire stock to frustrate their opening night. When Papa discovers her tricky he return the favour by buying all the ingredients available for her signature pigeon soufflé.
Marguerites tell Hassan that Madame doesn’t interview chefs, she simply invites them to make her an omelette. After one bite she can tell if they have what it takes to cook in her restaurant. When her Head Chef Jean-Pierre torches Maison Mumbai and daubs the walls with graffiti she fires him on the spot and personally scrubs the walls clean herself as an apology.
Now in need of a new chef Madame invites Hassan to make her an omelette. His is subtlety flavoured with Indian spices. Her first bite is a near gastronomic orgasam, yes she admits Hassan has what it takes to cook in her restaurant. Having had a salary dispute with Papa he takes up the offer and makes his hundred foot journey to be Le Saule Pleureur’s Head Chef. Within a year as a result of working closely with Marguerite they are awarded a second Michelin star.
Hassan is now a rising talent in high demand and is drawn to a top Parisian restaurant. Within a year he is burnt out and he returns to Madame to achieve the final accolade – the highly coveted third Michelin star.
Burnt (2015) Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller Directed by John Wells
Bradley Cooper plays Adam Jones the once revered two Michelin starred chef in Paris who suffered a spectacular drug- and alcohol-fueled fall from grace. He had retreated to New Orleans sucking oysters to regain his culinary focus. Now he’s back on the old continent, and on the hunt for a new kitchen in which to pursue that elusive third star with the debut of Adam Jones at The Langham
As he sets out to build his dream team “what happened in Paris” haunted those he wanted to bring on board. The first he had to win over was his trusted old mate Maitre’d Tony Bruhl who had reservations about handing over the reins of his present fine dining established fine dining team but did so knowing that he had the talent when he had his act togethe. His old sous-chef Michel was willing to let bygones be bygones to get in on Adam’s new venture.
Adam knows exactly how to win them over to his side: he contacts famed restaurant critic Simone (Uma Thurman) and asks her to dine at the hotel’s restaurant. Tony flips out when he sees Simone, fully aware that the restaurant’s food will not be up to Simone’s exacting standards. Adam appears in the kitchen in the nick of time and asks Tony for the opportunity to prove himself. Tony, having no other option, agrees. Simone’s review of Adam’s food is favorable enough that Tony and his father agree to renovate their hotel’s kitchen and hire Adam as the head chef. They do require Adam to submit to weekly drug tests with Tony’s psychiatrist Dr. Rosshilde (Emma Thompson). Dr. Rosshilde mentions to Adam that she could see him privately or in a support group session to help him maintain his sobriety. Adam refuses her offer of assistance. He throws himself into preparing for his restaurant Langhams’ grand opening. Max gets out of prison and joins Adam’s team. Helene rebuffs further job offers until, on the day of Langhams’ opening, Conti gently fires her. He sends her to the hotel’s kitchen, where Helene, a single mother, tears into Adam for getting her fired. Her temper softens when Adam offers her a much higher salary and the opportunity to explore her talents; she agrees to work at Langhams. The opening night turns into such a disaster — bad food, a mostly empty dining room — that Adam closes the restaurant early. He’s furious with David, Michel, everyone — but especially Helene. After humiliating her in front of her colleagues and becoming physically aggressive with her, Helene quits.
Tony who obviously cares deeply for Adam, visits Helene to convince her to return to Langhams. He offers her more money and an insight into Adam’s behaviour, he grew up in an unhappy home, has always been volatile but brilliant. Helen is still intrigued by Adam and when she returns to the restaurant he treats her better.
Tony and Adam tell the wait and kitchen staff how to identify how two Michelin judges might behave, a pair who arrive separately, order from the tasting and main menu, who ask for tap water and house wine. They might drop a fork on the ground just to see if the waiters notice because Michelin judges award stars based on their entire dining experience. Adam fends off his drug dealers collectors and regularly visits Dr Rosshilde for drug tests.
They have a near scare when a couple who meet the Michelin judge profile send their food back because the soup was too spicy. Luckily they weren’t real judges.
Adam’s past continues to haunt him. After a difficult period he changes the way he runs the restaurant. He listens to Helene and Max more. When the real Michelin judges come to The Langham he works with the other chefs especially Helene to serve a superb meal. They receive their third star and Tony and Adam celebrate.
No Reservations (2007) Catherine Zeta Jones, Aron Eckhart Directed by Scott Hicke
Kate Armstrong (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is the head chef at the trendy 22 Bleecker Street Restaurant in Manhattan, New York. She runs her kitchen at a rapid pace as she coordinates the making and preparation of all the fantastic meals, and personally displays the food to perfection on every dish. She intimidates everyone around her, including her boss Paula (Patricia Clarkson), who sends her to therapy. Kate hates to leave the kitchen when a customer wants to compliment her on one of her special dishes; however, she is ready to leave the kitchen in an instant when a customer insults her cooking.
When Kate’s sister Christine is killed in a car accident, her nine-year-old niece, Zoe (Abigail Breslin), must move in with her. Kate is devastated by her sister’s death and with all of her problems, Paula decides to hire a new sous chef to join the staff, Nick Palmer (Aaron Eckhart), who is a rising star in his own right and could be the head chef of any restaurant he pleased. Nick, however, wants to work under Kate. The atmosphere in the kitchen is somewhat chaotic as Kate feels increasingly threatened by Nick as time goes on due to his style of running her kitchen. Nick loves to listen to opera while he cooks and he loves to make the staff laugh. And Kate finds herself strangely attracted to Nick, whose uplifting personality has not only affected her staff but Zoe as well, who has been coming to work with Kate.
With all that is happening in Kate’s life, the last thing she would want is to fall in love with this man, as she has pushed away all others prior. Nevertheless, there is some kind of chemistry between the two of them that only flourishes with their passion for cooking. Yet life hits her hard when Paula decides to offer Nick the job of head chef and Kate’s relationship with Nick turns a sour note due to Kate’s pride. Nick also develops a special bond with Zoe.
In the end, Kate allows herself to become vulnerable and tear down the walls she has built throughout her life so that she and Nick could start fresh. The movie concludes with Zoe, Nick, and Kate having opened their own bistro.
Julie &Julia (2009) Merryl Streep, Amy Adams Directed by Nora Ephron
The film contrasts the life of chef Julia Child in the early years of her culinary career with the life of young New Yorker Julie Powell. In 2002, Julie Powell (Adams) is a young writer with an unpleasant job at the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s call center, where she answers telephone calls from victims of the September 11 attacks and members of the general public complaining about the LMDC’s controversial plans for rebuilding the World Trade Center. To do something she enjoys, she decides to cook every recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) by Julia Child (Streep) in one year; Powell decides to write a blog to motivate herself and document her progress.
Ephron’s screenplay is adapted from two books: My Life in France, Child’s autobiography written with Alex Prud’homme, and a memoir by Powell, Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen (later retitled Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously). Both of these books were written and published in the same time frame (2004–06). Powell’s book was based on her blog The Julie/Julia Project, where she had started documenting online her daily experiences cooking each of the 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The film is the first major motion picture based on a blog.
Woven into the story of Powell’s time in Queens in the early 2000s is the story of Child’s time in Paris throughout the 1950s, where she attends Le Cordon Bleu to learn French cooking and begins collaborating on a book about French cooking for American housewives. The plot highlights similarities in the women’s challenges. Both women receive much support from their husbands, except when Powell’s husband becomes fed up with her excessive devotion to her hobby and leaves her for a short time.
Eventually, Powell’s blog is featured in a story published in The New York Times, after which her project begins to receive the attention of journalists, literary agents, publishers, and a dismissive response from Child herself. Although Child’s book is rejected by Houghton Mifflin, it is accepted and published by Alfred A. Knopf. The last scene shows Powell and her husband visiting Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian Institution and Child in the same kitchen receiving a first print of her cookbook and celebrating the event with her husband.
Ratatouille (2007) Directed by Brad Bird
In this hilarious animated-adventure, a rat named Remy dreams of becoming a great chef despite his family’s wishes and the obvious problem of being a rat in a decidedly rodent-phobic profession. When fate places Remy in the city of Paris, he finds himself ideally situated beneath a restaurant made famous by his culinary hero, Auguste Gusteau. Despite the apparent dangers of being an unwanted visitor in the kitchen at one of Paris’ most exclusive restaurants, Remy forms an unlikely partnership with Linguini, the garbage boy, who inadvertently discovers Remy’s amazing talents. They strike a deal, ultimately setting into motion a hilarious and exciting chain of extraordinary events that turns the culinary world of Paris upside down. Remy finds himself torn between following his dreams or returning forever to his previous existence as a rat. He learns the truth about friendship, family and having no choice but to be who he really is, a rat who wants to be a chef.