You can’t deny the thrill of seeing a film, in this case The Hundred-Foot Journey, that so beautifully weaves together the things you love most in life. About a month ago, Chef did that so skillfully, weaving together food, social media, humor, travel and great story-telling. I left the theater craving Spanish food and was also hungry for more movies with relevance to the times we are living in. It also made me think more about the life of a chef, something I had never really thought about. I was looking for a another chance to do it again.
And here we are. Along came a film that did. Only this time, my tastebuds were even more enlivened. My love of travel was also granted two hours of pleasure as The Hundred-Foot Journey takes place in the south of France, in an exquisite setting which comes to live on the screen and where cuisine comes second to none and is shot as carefully as the film’s characters.
About The Hundred-Foot Journey
The film was shot on location in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France and it looks glorious. It’s not a region I’ve been to but the film certainly makes it look stunning. Swedish director Lasse Hallström recently told Travel & Leisure that filming there was unique because he’s a vegan: “My experience with food in the south of France was mostly visual; I loved the Sunday market in St. Antonin Noble Val, where we shot most of our village scenes. All those beautiful chanterelles and porcini and juicy, ripe tomatoes—I felt like a kid in a vegan candy store.”
Near the end of the film, we follow the lead character to Paris where he paves out a successful career in a trendy restaurant and becomes the city’s culinary sensation. The difference between the serenity of the village where he came from and the excitement and glamour of the City of Lights is quite profound. As we watch him change with this new status, we hope, along with his family, that he return to the person he once was.
The story revolves around a young Indian chef named Hassan Kadam, played wonderfully by Manish Dayal, as he takes his Indian roots into the kitchens of France to become a bonafide Michelin star chef. As a young boy in India, he inherited his mother’s cooking skills and adopted her obsessive love for native spices like cumin and coriander. When he later opens up an Indian restaurant in France with his dad (played splendidly by Om Puri) in charge, he tries gainfully to make the best food the small village has ever tasted, but his family has a hard time bringing customers in. Right across the way from their restaurant is tough competition — a French traditional restaurant run by Madame Mallory (played skillfully – always – by Helen Mirren). Madame Mallory doesn’t want them to succeed and calls for an outright war, first denying them access to the local market to buy produce and other necessities to cook their meals.
But unusual events lead Hassan into Madame Mallory’s kitchen where she trains him to a highly sought after chef in France (after he shows her how to make…an omelet!). Along the way, there’s romance and competition, both in and out of the restaurants and there’s also delicious cuisine, so appealing that the aromas nearly jump out of the screen. I didn’t take my kids to the screening that I attended simply due to the lateness of the hour, but I’m already planning to take my 11 year-old daughter to see it.
This is the kind of tale that involves an equal amount of magical realism and gritty reality that I like. The story deals with differences between two cultures that are broken down and settled in beautiful ways that even a Hollywood ending merit. I also want to mention two of its producers, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg, who introduced the film at the screening, in a video introduction, telling the audience they hoped it would make us as hungry as it made them. The film comes to a theater near you on August 8th.
Keep your eyes peeled and grab a first row seat so you can capture the beauty of the scenery and food close up.
Disclosure: I attended a screening hosted by Dreamworks to preview the film before its opening day but no opinion was asked of me.