Mary/ January 2, 2015/ Culinary, Food, Movies

I saw a lovely movie about a chef the other night. It reminded me that I wanted to share a second wonderful documentary about three restaurants, which led me to recall a third, very special movie… Here are three terrific movies about cooking, food, passion, art, family, life and love.

Haute Cuisine
This 2012 French comedy/drama is based on the true story of Danièle Mazet-Delpeuch and her appointment as the private chef for Francois Mitterand. In this film Hortense Laborie, a highly regarded chef from Perigord region, recounts her time as the president’s private chef and her work at the Elysee Palace, as she is leaving her post as a camp chef at an arctic research base. The story is filled with rich elements of family food traditions but also control and bureaucracy!

Laborie and the President have a touching connection and a love for traditional, authentic food, much to the chagrin of the machine that runs the palace….and the jealous competition in the main kitchen. Laborie’s indomitable spirit reigns. Actress Catherine Frot does not disappoint in this charming, delightful film.

spinning platesSpinning Plates
This beautiful 2012 documentary contrasts three restaurants: one of the premiere restaurants in the world, a 150 year old stakeholder in a midwest community, and a small family restaurant run by new immigrants with high hopes and many challenges.

The restaurants are so different, but they all share struggles and agonizing decisions.

I fell in love with Chef Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago: an artist and artisan who showcases molecular gastronomy at his stellar restaurant. I marveled at the resilience of the Breitbach family. My heart ached for the immigrant husband and wife who so wanted to create and keep their fledgling family restaurant alive, putting everything on the line….Wonderful glimpses of all kinds of cooking going on! Lots of heart and soul too.

eat drink

Eat Drink Man Woman
This memorable film was written and directed by Ang Lee in 1994 and was his first critical and box-office success.

This film takes place in 1990s contemporary Taiwan. Mr. Chu is a widower, master Chinese chef, and father to three unmarried daughters who don’t easily fall into line with any definition of traditional Chinese culture.

Each Sunday, Mr. Chu prepares a wonderful banquet for his daughters. This weekly meal becomes the family forum as each daughter brings her issues to the table and struggles with the conflict between their father’s traditional values and their more contemporary lifestyles.

In his review in the Washington Post, Hal Hinson called the film a “beautiful balance of elements … mellow, harmonious and poignantly funny.” Hinson concluded:

As the relationships evolve and deepen, there seems to be a surprise around every corner—for both the characters and the audience. But what is most surprising, perhaps, is how involved we become with these people. As satisfying as food can be, the fullness we feel at the end here is far richer and more complex than that offered by the most extravagant meal. “Eat Drink Man Woman” is a delicacy but also something more—something like food for the heart.


Bon appetit!