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FILM: The Hundred Foot Journey

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.

  THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY
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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