Posts filed under Cooking Schools

The Hundred-Foot Journey Charts a Path to More than Food

The best food films ask the viewer to consider questions beyond fixed recipes and easy menus. Rather the films with lasting value probe deeper asking why community matters and to what use talents should be put.

               Produced by  Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom at DreamWorks Studio

               Produced by Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom at DreamWorks Studio

DreamWorks Studio has recently released just such a film: The Hundred-Foot Journey. Based on worldwide best-selling book of the same name by Richard C. Morais, the film’s producers include the Hollywood power house team of no less than Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake.  

Yet it is the value of the film itself that merits a trip to the theater. The film consists of circles of relationships that overlap between cultures and kitchens and finally the human heart.

The film begins in India where Hassan Kadam (played by Manish Dayal) learns from his mother in the family restaurant that adding spice to both food and life results in delight. But Hassan’s peaceful world is suddenly destroyed when angry members of an extremist political party smash the family’s restaurant and he sees his beloved mother die in the resulting fire.

Fleeing India’s political turmoil, the family relocates to Europe, hoping to find both peace and a new safer location for both their restaurant and their way of life. A broken car and an inspiration from above prompt the father, (played by Om Puri), to settle in the quaint village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in the south of France. 

There is only one problem: The location for Papa’s new Maison Mumbai restaurant is directly across the road from Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin rated restaurant. Madame Mallory, the owner, (played by Helen Mirren) is not amused to say the least. She is the embodiment of tradition, restraint, classic technique. From her point of view, here is just too much music and too many spices being used in that new 'foreign' restaurant across the lane.

Soon a feud of culinary tit-fo- tat breaks out between the two restaurants escalating in a second fire and hate graffiti on a wall. Though traditional, Madame Mallory is horrified at the violence and a tentative truce is declared between the 100 feet that separate the two restaurants (hence the name of both the book and the film).

With peace comes romance between Hassan and Madame’s sous chef, Marguerite (played by Charlotte Le Bon) and the awareness by Madame Mallory that Hassan has the potential to be a culinary great – if he adds professional culinary training. to the skills his mother taught him.

Again cultural limits are strained as Hassan’s father struggles, but finally, releases his son to the larger world of fame and fortune. Will the young chef succeed and what will be the cost? What will be the relationship between the two restaurants, between the two owners once Hassan reaches for his own Michelin stars?

The answers to these questions makes the film well seeing (and owning when available) but be assured lovers and cultures do eventually meet over the final truth of cuisine: What matters in the end is not critics’ stars or cultural superiority but rather understanding the nature of fellowship, both in kitchen and at the table.

This thoughtful film, which contains no car chases or X-rated sex scenes, offers a reminder that diversity is a gift, not a curse. Diversity provides an opportunity to learn, to change, to create a new - in short, an opportunity to widen our circle of understanding to include the whole world. 

Your Culinary World Copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel  2014

CHEF is a Movie Even the CIA Could Love

There are foodie films and then there are movies that reach beyond Hollywood’s stereotypes about romantic soufflés into the art of heart of why professional cooks cook. One wonderfully different film that pulls no punches is Jon Favreau’s new film CHEF.

And, no, this film is not about the military CIA but rather the far more peace and creative CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in upstate New York, Texas and California.

The authenticity of this film is amazing from knife skills to how chefs create. The story begins as Chef Carl Casper (written and played by Jon Favreau) faces culinary boredom as a ‘successful’ high-end Los Angeles chef who has been cooking the same boring dishes for five long years. Mon dieu!

                     

When Chef Casper learns that he is about to be reviewed by the famed critic Ramsey Michel (played to perfection by Oliver Platt) he decides to alter the long established menu and create something new and innovative.

His urge to create brings him into direct conflict with the restaurant’s owner (played as a cold hearted money man by Dustin Hoffman). The result is a disaster that literally goes viral thanks to the Internet and soon the Chef is unemployed, drifting without a compass professionally or personally.

The rest of the film follows the Chef with humor and pathos as he rediscovers thanks to a food truck, an insightful son and fine friends that cuisine to be authentic must reach beyond the kitchen and connect with life.

In the end there is laughter and music and joy for both the Chef and the audience lucky enough to catch this uniquely honest film that in the end does more than show the stress and strain of the back of the house. It captures as few films do the true reason cuisine is an art – when well done we can changes lives: including our own.

Your Culinary World Copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2014