Foodie Film Reviews: Chef and The Hundred Foot Journey
Written, produced, and directed by John Favreau, the summer hit film Chef is very much his brainchild. Favreau also plays the protagonist, Carl, an innovative chef whose culinary creativity is stifled by his restaurant manager. After a mortifying altercation with a food critic goes viral, Favreau quits his job and starts a food truck in his hometown of Miami, rediscovering his passion for cooking and reconnecting with his young son on a multi-state road trip adventure back to L.A. The movie will give you your fill of celebrity sightings, with a plethora of A-listers occupying minor roles throughout the film: Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey Jr. pop in and out of the plotline.
The attraction of the movie lies in its authentic treatment of local foods and scenery, as it allows the viewer colorful snapshots into the unique personalities of New Orleans, Texas, and Miami cuisine. Favreau’s food truck incorporates classic items from each stop: Cubanos, po’ boys, yuca fries, BBQ brisket sliders, tostones, and many more dishes that will make you drool in your seat. The focus on culinary authenticity is credited to L.A. restaurant and food truck pioneer Roy Choi, who Favreau brought on as a technical consultant to supervise the kitchen, menu, food, and plating aspects.
The film does drag on too long at times, with lengthy stints of adorable but fatiguing montages featuring family shenanigans on the food truck. The sentimentality of the film is simultaneously a major draw and a predictable exasperation. All in all, you know what you are signing up for by watching the trailer: a fresh, feel-good, family-friendly homage to food with exciting cinematography and fun characters. This movie is the ultimate food porn experience in film form. Get ready to emerge from the theater with some serious cravings.
The Hundred Foot Journey:
Produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, The Hundred Foot Journey is a less trendy and more serious endeavor than Chef. Rife with themes of multicultural acceptance, the film centers on the Kadams, an Indian family who moves into a traditional, quaint French village, only to find their home-style restaurant must compete with the elite, conservative French restaurant across the street. Predictable and conventional, the film is full of cultural clichés and overdone cooking metaphors.
The primary conflict in the film comes from the tension between the prestigious, Michelin-obsessed culinary world and the rich Indian cooking featuring a remarkable range of spices. On one side, we see a restaurant fixated on gourmet traditions and impeccable presentation, whereas on the other, we are offered an explosion of taste and flavorful dishes. The movie pits truffle fois gras and béchamel against tandoori goat and blaring bhangra music until Hassan Kadams, the talented son, and Marguerite, the sous chef across the street, begin a flirtatious relationship that leads to culinary collaboration. We also witness the protagonist explore the futuristic molecular gastronomy scene in Paris: a world driven by innovation and culinary chemistry but ultimately lacking soul, as Hassan finds. The movie is packed with stunning shots of lush landscapes, mouthwatering French and Indian dishes, and pleasing combinations of exciting ingredients. Go see this movie if you are in the mood for a talented cast, inspirational cinematography, and a sentimental, albeit sappy, celebration of spices.
Cover photo source.