Friday, August 8, 2014
Far too many foodie movies have not yet been covered on Tinsel & Tine despite the fact they speak to my brand. I was about to miss another opportunity with The Hundred-Foot Journey, (Produced by Steven Spielberg & Oprah Winfrey) as I had conflicts with both screenings, but to the rescue, my foodie friend and fellow blogger Denine Gorniak - The Bicycle-Chef, who covered the Prince Music Theater screening, which included a post panel discussion with Philly Chefs - Marc Summer and Marc Vetri, and as you'll read, she did fabulous job! - Le Anne Lindsay, Editor
The Hundred-Foot Journey Review
Later, we see Hassan, grow up, learn to cook with his mother, and help to run the family restaurant. When there is political unrest in their country, the family is forced to flee India after a night of mayhem and violence. They head to England, land of drab, dull, soulless cookery. They lose their home, restaurant and more but their passion for good food and family gatherings remains. Life in England isn’t all sunshine and daisies for them. After one too many rainy days, Hassan and his family decide to venture to warmer, sunnier climes, and so their odyssey truly begins. When the brakes in the family van give out near a small village in the South of France, the family crashes into the life and livelihood of a charming village called Saint-Antoin-Noble-Val. A beautiful young maiden, named, Marguerite, (Charlot Le Bon), with eyes as big as Wedgewood saucers, is driving past. She stops to help and brings the family to the village mechanic. Hassan is mesmerized by her beauty and her hospitality. Once in the village, Hassan’s father, Papa Kadam (Om Puri), spies a derelict restaurant, perfect for the family’s next culinary venture. “Brakes break for a reason…” he says, and this is the reason to have landed in this village. The only problem, Papa Kadam’s new restaurant, Maison Mumba, is exactly, one hundred- feet away from a Michelin Star restaurant, Le Saule Pleureur. It is run by an icy, polished, proprietress, Madame Mallory, played flawlessly by Academy Award ® Winner, Helen Mirren. It is a true clash of cultures; the riotous versus the refined.
The movie is a culinary version of Romeo and Juliette mixed with a dash of Disney’s Ratatouille and a heap of ghee. As with many Disney movies, on-screen life is beyond make-believe. Time speeds up. Bad things happen but there will always be a happy ending.
Director, Lasse Halström is a master at creating movies that have a playful quality that delight the senses. He carefully constructs scenes that are pleasantly sensual without becoming overtly sexual. Halström, who directed the charming semi-autobiographical movie, My Life As a Dog, and Fairy-tale-like, Chocolat, doesn’t typically direct movies that are challenging. The Hundred-Foot Journey does not break from this pattern. What we are served is a sweet story that takes a familiar thematic recipe and he tweaks it ever so slightly, spicing what we thought we knew into a unique stew.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a lovely, happy movie. One could easily watch this again and again, for the beautiful scenery, the delightful blooming romance and for a story that bridges cultural differences with food. It is a movie that is a feast for the eyes, with pastoral French landscapes, trips to bountiful markets filled with fruits and vegetables, fish and mushrooms straight out of Monet’s paintings.
The characters may go to competitive war with each other, but they aren’t so petty in their rivalries to not understand the pain and suffering of the shared human condition. Food bridges cultures, helps to ease sorrows, brings back memories and creates new ones. “Why change a 200 year old recipe?” Madame Mallory asks Hassan when he adds his family spices to a dish he is making for her. To which Hassan replies, “Because maybe 200 years is long enough.” Director Halström is not creating a new recipe for a film about food, family and memories; he is merely adding a new flavor to an old genre. The Hundred-Foot Journey is a new memory in the food and film cannon.
The Hundred-Foot Journey Panel Discussion Recap:
After the movie screening, there was a panel discussion, moderated by Marc Summers, of The Food Network. The movie was screened in conjunction with the Marc Vetri Foundation, and esteemed local chefs: Marc Vetri (Vetri Family Restaurants); Greg Vernic (Vernic Food and Drink); Konstantinos Pitsillides (Kanella); and Erin O’Shea (Percy Street Barbecue).
As the movie ran about 2 hours, the panel discussion started well after 10 pm. Late for a school night! I was surprised that this group of chefs, with popular busy restaurants and schedules would be out mid-week for a movie screening and conversation. Marc Summers is an energetic host, albeit a bit smarmily familiar to many, from his years as a host on Nickelodeon and The Food Network. He shared with the audience that he and Marc Vetri are long-time close acquaintances and he also named dropped many restaurant’s and chefs during the talk. As I was very tired after a long day and long movie, I was anxious for the talk to begin and for it to wrap up. Mr. Summers may have the patter down for television talk but he doesn’t quite have the chops to serve up a talk with a live crowd. The panel discussion was to cover topics as free ranging from themes the movie presented, different cuisines, food to bridge gaps, and mentors in the food world and other topics.
A few audience members who did get to speak were only interested in their own opinions rather than asking questions to move the conversation along. The choice of panelists struck me as odd too. The chefs weren’t exactly the best orators. Most seemed uncomfortable speaking to an audience. Marc Vetri participation was chosen to be a co-presenter of the film along with The Vetri Foundation. “The Vetri Foundation was established in 2008 to help kids experience the connection between healthy eating and healthy living. Through food, education and social interaction, the Vetri Foundation works to give children the nutritional foundation they need to grow and thrive.” His foundation is a cause near and dear to my heart, being a former chef, a mom, and someone interested in healthy cooking and living. It was a missed opportunity to not have had more of the talk about these themes and ideas.
The one topic that did come up, which was fully exploited in the movie, The One Hundred-Food Journey, was the unrealistic presentation of how restaurant life truly is in the real world. “Disney-like” was the over-all consensus. It was practically shouted out by one opinionated microphone grabber! The chefs all agreed that one does not go into restaurant work for fun, glamor and easy living. Nor do the accolades come easily or as quickly as the movie portrays. Young people entering the industry, especially straight out of culinary school often fancy themselves a chef before they have earned the right to the title. Surprisingly, I thought it odd that Marc Summers was the moderator. He is one of the many people who represent the industry that created this false sense of the glamorous culinary world. The movie and The Food Network help to perpetuate this myth. Not one of the panelists had anything to say about how to solve this problem or how to truly teach people that restaurant life is seriously hard. It was a missed opportunity to discuss and become a teachable moment for each other. Another Disney and Food Network myth kept alive.
The conversation moved onto other topics, such as the camaraderie between each of the panelists and other local well-known restaurateurs; the ways that the restaurant industry is embracing vegetarian trends – although I’m not convinced this is entirely true, especially when one of the panelists owns a barbecue restaurant. I’m hard pressed to believe a vegetarian could eat anything at her establishment. The real point of bringing The Vetri Foundation and the chef’s together and using them all to be co-presenters of the film screening was to showcase Vetri’s foundation, and for DreamWorks SKG Pictures to present to The Vetri Foundation a check for $2,500. The movie may have been a bit of Disney make-believe but the promotion of a good cause and furthering an important dialogue was well-worth the late hour and long evening.
Denine R. Gorniak, writes at TheBicycle-Chef.com, a blog full of recipes, photos, humor with a side-order of cycling tales. She is a mom, cook, and lover of all things relating to bicycles, food, film and food memoir-related. She has worked in the restaurant industry for over 20 years and has inside view of what life in the culinary trenches is truly like. Denine’s motto for her blog and life is: Laugh. Cook. Ride.
T &T's LAMB Score: 3 outta 5
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