Julie & Julia

Weekend Roundtable: Now We’re Cooking

Melissa McCarthy spent seven years playing a professional chef on Gilmore Girls, so you can imagine my disappointment that her new movie The Kitchen is not a spinoff for that character. This week, we’re doing a Roundtable on favorite movies about cooking or food preparation anyway.

To be honest, I thought of this topic a long time ago and have been waiting for an excuse to do it. Since I’ve got no other good tie-ins for this weekend’s new movies, now seems like as good a time as any.

Jason Gorber

Ratatouille is about food and criticism, two things near and dear to my heart. It’s easy to forget just how whimsical and delightful the film is, while simultaneously being so eminently weird. The allusions to Guy Savoy’s kitchen in Paris and Thomas Keller’s French Laundry on the West coast of the U.S. made sure that this rodent cooked up a hell of a meal (even if I don’t really love the dish that gives the movie its name).

David Krauss

I love reviewing movies, but I’ve always fantasized about being a restaurant critic. Along with film, food is my greatest passion, and in addition to eating, I’m also an enthusiastic home cook. Maybe that’s why I connect so viscerally with Julie & Julia, which celebrates not just food preparation and one of the most iconic chefs of modern times, but our innate connection to food on a basic, everyday level and how it fuels not just our bodies, but more importantly, our souls.

Meryl Streep is absolutely amazing – and so adorable – as the inimitable Julia Child, who drools over butter and Dover sole, and parlays a fanatical attachment to food into a trailblazing career as a cookbook author, television chef, and culinary ambassador. Amy Adams is equally good as Julie Powell, an aspiring writer and obsessive foodie who combats a lingering ennui by vowing to cook, and blog about, all of Child’s 534 recipes in her bestselling tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days. Director Nora Ephron beautifully dovetails the two women’s respective personal and professional evolutions, but never neglects the thread that ties them together… food.

What I love so much about Julie & Julia is that it not only showcases the food itself, it also showcases the preparation, the trial and error that produce various dishes, the frustrations that accompany culinary disasters, and the euphoria that comes with executing a challenging recipe. Lots of mouth-watering shots of gourmet cuisine will get your stomach rumbling and stimulate those salivary glands, but the inspirational story and Streep’s buoyant, completely captivating performance will warm your heart as well.

Brian Hoss

I wish I could say that a film like Oldboy could inspire my culinary consideration, but in fact even Ratatouille is beyond my basic palate. Likewise, when I think of food in movies, it’s usually a scene I would rather was toned down (Hook) or cut (The Two Towers, the first Captain America).

Of course, when I think of prison or any kind of incarceration, I tend to think of rotten, rancid food, a lack of food, and even hunger strikes among the other terrible tenets of being institutionalized. But I dare anyone to watch Goodfellas and not immediately wish for some of that prison mobster cuisine. (I also recommend Bottle Shock for drumming up a thirst.)

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

When I watch a film like Jon Favreau’s Chef, I can appreciate the artistry behind, say, the roast squab that the titular chef prepares in a vengeful frenzy at home, served with pickled red onion, chilies, gochujang, and a soy vinaigrette.

Still, I’m a simple man with simple tastes. I have never seen a grilled cheese sandwich so seductive as the one that Favreau’s Carl Casper cooks for his son. That scene genuinely influenced me and my wife as we designed the kitchen in our new home. I defy anyone to watch Chef and not immediately dart out for a Cuban sandwich, even though I’ve still yet to come across one as tantalizingly gorgeous as those on-screen. While I get that the chocolate lava cake early on is meant to represent just how stagnant the menu at Carl’s restaurant had become, I’ll freely admit that I’d tear into one right now, leaving that melted chocolate ganache spilling out all over the plate.

I’d write more, but I just looked up the recipe for that grilled cheese, and I need to get cracking.

Josh Zyber

Ang Lee’s delightful Eat Drink Man Woman will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you very hungry. The film is a good old-fashioned melodrama about generational conflicts and familial strife, told with endearing characters and no small amount of sly humor. The family at the center is headed by an aging master chef who, in one of life’s great ironies, is losing his sense of taste. Cooking is his art, and like Beethoven gone deaf, he must rely on his skill and his memories to continue creating. Each Sunday, he hosts a family dinner for his three willful daughters, and the story is filled with many wonderful twists and surprises as each character attempts to manipulate the lives of the others.

The film warmly embraces each of its characters, exploring their lives with great attention to nuance and detail. Lee also spends a considerable amount of time basking in the details of the father’s work, showcasing a tantalizing display of Chinese cuisine that’s sure to leave any viewer craving for a good meal.

Your Turn

What movies have made your mouth water with their delectable displays of cooking prowess?

15 comments

  1. Art A

    Big Night with Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub as the 2 main protagonists, directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci is my “go to” foodie movie. That feast! The sentimentalist in me also gravitates to Chocolat with Juliette Binoche and johnny Depp.

    • Julian

      Came here to type ‘The Big Night’ as well. Bittersweet ‘Waiting for Godot’-esque movie. One of Tucci’s best.

  2. njscorpio

    I came in to mention the prison cooking scene in Goodfellas…but other than that, what comes to mind is the Johnny Depp movie Chocolat. Then, what comes to mind is the unrelated muay thai movie Chocolate…can we do underrated martial arts movies next? 😀

  3. Csm101

    The two I would’ve of mentioned have been spoken for. I’ll go with American Psycho. The movie isn’t about food, but it does play an integral part in the lifestyle of the mostly douchey characters. While I’m at it, I can’t not mention the Hannibal tv series. Never has cannibalism looked so appetizing!

  4. Charles Contreras

    Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah as a department store saleswoman who gets diagnosed with a terminal illness and decides to take her savings and goes on a vacation in Europe, where she stays at an expensive hotel, makes friends with their chef, and unintentionally has everyone there thinking that she’s a rich woman. It’s actually a really nice movie that I could recommend along with Last Chance Harvey and maybe even Lost In Translation.

  5. Bolo

    It’s been awhile since I last watched ‘Chungking Express’. Apparently it was restored and played in cinemas last year, but it either didn’t play near me or I just missed it. I’d like to revisit it, but Criterion’s edition is out of print. I think Lionsgate have the rights to it these days. Their catalogue releases are beyond random, so who knows, maybe it will get a 4K release out of nowhere.

  6. Pedram

    Spanglish had a lot of cooking in it. Well, Adam Sandler was a chef in it anyway. In any case I liked the movie and think it deserves a mention in this category.

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