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Archive for Food Films

FILM: The Hundred Foot Journey


Papa Kadam (Om Puri) brings his family and
their cuisine from Mumbai to a small
French town. Photo courtesy Dreamworks.


We didn’t know about the international best-seller, The Hundred-Foot Journey, a novel by Richard C. Morais. But after seeing the film version twice, we were so captivated that we ordered a copy.

The main story, of an immigrant Indian restaurant family taking on the finest Michelin restaurant in 50 miles of their town in the south of France, was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as a “favorite summer read” in 2010. Oprah brought the book to Steven Spielberg, and we are the beneficiaries of the film, The Hundred Foot Journey. If you love a warm story, beautiful cinematography, spot-on performances and direction and of course, great cuisine, you’ll cherish this charming film.

Let others write about the cultural divide and the ability to walk in somebody else’s shoes. We’re here for the food, which is glorious. From the just-harvested produce and fresh proteins in the town market, to the activity in the kitchens of two very different restaurants, this film is a feast for food lovers.

The actual distance from the [fictitious] elegant Michelin one-star Le Saule Pleureur* to the boisterous newcomer, Maison Mumbai, is brief: one hundred feet, says the title. It refers to both the actual distance and the cultural divide and battlefield.
*The Weeping Willow.

But the distance seems shorter. Just walk out the front door of the elegant maison de maître that is Le Saule Pleureur, cross the country road and enter the more modest premises of the upstart neighbor. It’s Pigeon aux Truffes versus Goat Curry.

There are several journeys: the Kadam family’s, from Mumbai to France; young Hassam’s, from his modest family restaurant to the pursuit of three stars at a top Paris restaurant; the pursuit of the craft of great cuisine; and two love stories. The haughty restaurateur, Madame Mallory, feisty Papa Kadam, and even the beautiful sous-chef in Madame’s kitchen, Marguerite, discover new paths.


The story takes place in the real town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in the south of France.

The words “charming,” “picturesque” and “quaint” are not clichés here: You will want to go online and book your next vacation. Many of the actual vendors who work in the local market appeared as extras in the film, along with their produce, cheeses, flowers and wines.

However, as happens in motion pictures, some locations are not what they may seem.

The center of town is Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, but the breathtaking outskirts where the two restaurants face off amid green fields, is actually a composite, a miracle of digital art that placed a farmhouse some 10 km away across the street from the 19th century pink mansion that stands in for Le Saule Pleureur.



Across the street: one-star French cuisine at the elegant Le Saule Pleurer: Papa, Hassan and Madame Mallory (Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Helen Mirren). Photo courtesy Dreamworks.


This film has received only average reviews from many reviewers. We don’t agree with their comments, and can only imagine that these individuals aren’t interested in chefs, great cuisine or stories built around them.

To lovers of great cuisine, who thrill to the flavors and aromas of fine kitchens, it’s a sensory delight—a very joyous journey indeed. Not to mention, a fine story that seems very real.

Directed by Lasse Hallström, the film stars Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Charlotte LeBon. But the gifts of all cast members and the production team, tfrom cinematographer Linus Sandgren and production designer David Gropman to the food stylists and the location scouts, deserve three stars.


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FOOD FILM: Three Stars ~ Three-Star Michelin Chefs

We were excited when we were invited to see the new film, “Three Stars,” a documentary that showcases 10 of the world’s Michelin three-star chefs.* Also featured is Jean-Luc Naret, director of the Guide Michelin, founded in 1900. He provides insights into the rating system and the economic and personal benefits of earning that third star—with the chefs commenting on the pressure it brings to keep it, and other travails.

The highest Michelin rating, three stars, means “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” It gives a restaurant and its chef world prominence, as foodies around the globe trek long distances to experience the cuisine.

To those who have followed the stars over the years, one insight provided by Mr. Naret is that now, the ratings are all about the food. In prior years, a restaurant had to be beautifully appointed in order to get the coveted third star. Today, the focus is “what’s on the plate.” Ishikawa in Tokyo is as plain as any traditionally-designed sushi restaurant, and Noma in Copenhagen—rated the world’s best restaurant by Restaurant magazine†—looks like a café in Vermont.

The 10 chefs featured in “Three Stars” include:

  • Yannick Alléno of Le Meurice in Paris
  • Sven Elverfeld of Aqua in Wolfsburg, Germany
  • Sergio Herman of Oud Sluis in Sluis, The Netherlands
  • Hideki Ishikawa of Ishikawa in Tokyo

    Noma restaurant has no photos on its website. Want to see the food? You won’t get a satisfying glimpse in “Three Stars.” You’ll have to buy the cookbook. Photo by Ditte Isager ourtesy Phaidon Press.

  • Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak of Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain
  • René Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Olivier Roellinger of Le Coquillage in Cancale, France (in 2009, Roellinger closed his three-star haute cuisine restaurant, Les Maisons de Bricourt, to focus on the seafood of Brittany at Le Coquillage—more casual cuisine but equally acclaimed [currently 1 Michelin star])
  • Nadia Santini of Dal Pescatore in Runate, Italy
  • Jean-Georges Vongerichten of Jean-Georges in New York City
    The work of German filmmaker Lutz Hachmeister (the original title is “Drei Sterne—Die Köche und die Sterne, “Three Stars—The Cook and the Stars”), the film is 94 minutes well spent for lovers of haute cuisine. It’s a rare trip behind the scenes, and the opportunity to spend face time—at least on film—with the great chefs.

    There are some quirks. We found the extensive cross-cutting, jumping from topic to topic, to be distracting (we’d like to add some title cards). But truly disappointing is that there’s only about a minute of screen time given to showing the food!

    The director focuses on searches for the finest ingredients, kitchen preparation and some dining room scenes, along with the chefs as talking heads.

    Strangely, when the director has the opportunity to focus on the beautiful plates of food that result from their chefs’ philosophies and labors, he quickly shifts focus—in two disappointing instances, spending time on the face of the pretty server, while the plates of food she serves get short shrift (or no shrift). It’s a real flaw in the film, and makes us wonder why Herr Hachmeister chose to spend his time documenting three-star chefs.

    So, while the film doesn’t merit three stars, it’s still a tasty treat for all who love exquisite cuisine and want to know more about those who produce it.

    See our list of food films.

    *The 2012 edition of the Guide Michelin features 109 three-stars, up from 96 in 2012.

    †The World’s 50 Best Restaurants is a list produced by the British magazine Restaurant. The voters include consumer gourmets, international chefs, restaurant critics and restaurateurs.


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    FILM: Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, A Lesson On Sushi & Life

    “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” is a documentary by American filmmaker David Gelb, about 85 year-old sushi chef Jiro Ono—considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. The film opens today in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza and IFC Center, and on Friday, March 16th in Los Angeles at the Nuart Theatre. A national rollout will follow.

    Considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef, Jiro Ono is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a small, nondescript, sushi-only restaurant located down a flight of stairs on the concourse of a Tokyo subway station.

    The restaurant serves only sushi and a few beverages—no appetizers, no miso soup, no desserts. The decor is classic sushi bar plainness: white walls, wood booths, tables and sushi bar. Customers must use a shared public bathroom outside the restaurant.


    The great sushi chef Jiro Ono and his son Yoshikazu at their sushi bar. Photo courtesy Magnolia Films.


    Yet despite the humble surroundings—a total lack of ambiance—Sukiyabashi Jiro is the first sushi bar to be awarded the top honor, three stars, by the demanding reviewers of the Guide Michelin. The reviewers famously give two stars for memorably great food and the third star for great ambiance.

    The Real Message

    We love sushi; it’s our favorite food. Yet for us, the inspiration of the film is not how to make beautiful sushi. It’s about the work ethic of a master craftsman who never stops seeking perfection.

    At an age where most people are long retired, Jiro—who was hospitalized after a heart attack at at age 70 but never slowed down—gets up early in the morning and works a long day. He samples every piece of fish, trains his small staff of five (including his son) and stands behind the sushi bar to carefully mold and present his sushi. He’s there when the restaurant closes, after dinner service.

    Jiro’s eldest son Yoshikazu, the traditional heir to his father’s business, is a bit like Prince Charles: past 50, diligently doing his job, respecting his venerated parent and no doubt wondering when he will get to run the show. His younger brother Takashi already has a larger, glamorous sushi bar in a fashionable neighborhood.

    Follow the film to a theater near you on the official website.

    Love sushi? Learn all about it in our beautiful Sushi Glossary.


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