The next best thing to eating food, is watching a movie about it…preferably while eating. For the past few months, I’ve been doing exactly that during my lunchtime break. What better way to enjoy a delicious homemade sandwich with all the fixin’s than to feed your eyes simultaneously? The brains at Eat a Duck HQ put their heads together, and came up with a list of the best food-centric movies and TV shows for you to savor and stream while enjoying a meal. That means no depressing documentaries bemoaning the sorry state of food in this country, or the deplorable conditions suffered by our cows and chickens. Those have their place, but this ain’t it.
Le Chef (2012)
A world famous chef (Jean Reno) is struggling to avoid losing a Michelin star at his legendary Paris restaurant. Meanwhile, a hapless cook (Michaël Youn) has his own problems holding down a job due to his obsessive need to flex his culinary muscles. Silliness ensues as the two join forces. If Ratatouille were remade with live actors, this would be it.
Haute Cuisine (2013)
Hortense Laborie, a seasoned chef from Perigord is amazed when she is offered a job as head chef for the President of France. The male chefs on staff are none too happy and do everything they can to sabotage her, but the President is enchanted by Hortense’s refined homestyle cooking. The two become fast friends, and enjoy testing each other with their knowledge of Monsieur Escoffier’s cookbooks.
Mind of a Chef
What’s this? Yet another food show narrated by Anthony Bourdain? Well yes and no. He’s basically the Johnny Olsen, there to add some gravitas by introducing that season’s featured chef in his signature no-nonsense tone. David Chang, Sean Brock, April Bloomfield, Magnus Nilsson and Ed Lee each take their shot to talk about what food and cooking mean to them. Along the way they’ll share some favorite recipes, travel to some cool spots and show you what really happens behind the kitchen doors.
Big Night (1996)
“To eat good food, is to be close to god”, amen! This comedic drama drops in on Primo and Secondo (Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub), two brothers from Italy are on the verge of losing their restaurant. In a last-ditch attempt to drum up some business, they bet everything they have on one big night and the hope of a visit from swing king Louie Prima. This is one of the rare films that manages to capture what it means to love food.
Three Stars (2010)
Three Stars gives a fascinating peek into the uncompromising world of a three Michelin star chef. The Michelin rating system, the workings of which are a mystery even to those in the industry, has the power to make or break a restaurant. That means the constant stress to maintain their stars motivates each and every chef to continue to push the boundaries of cooking.
Spinning Plates (2012)
The narrative is split between three restaurants from different parts of the country and the stories of those who run them. Each depict the trials of their particular place in the industry they share. While all three are marked with tragic events, they also share a similar path. One of survival. They look for that in distinctly different ways . The desire to be the best, the importance of carrying on a family business, and the struggle to simply stay open for business.
The entire process of cooking delicious food makes us happy and is oddly therapeutic. As the title character (played by Favreau himself) helps us all to appreciate. As his life is turned upside down, his mantra continues to be “I don’t care what everyone says, I don’t care about the bad things that happen, or the money, I just want to cook great food.” When you are a cook, you will never lose that love, no matter how life unfolds.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
Jiro Ono is relentless. His pursuit of perfection is well documented in “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” We see a man, well into his 80’s, masterfully executing sushi in his microscopic train station outpost. What I would consider food based performance art, is on full display by the gorgeous cinematography throughout, specifically during the swift, one take walk-through of the ever precise dinner service. The food porn alone is worth the watch. To see a person dedicate himself with such passion to a singular cause is what makes this movie infinitely memorable.
The Trip (2010) & The Trip to Italy (2014)
Both movies follow the same genre, that of a mocumentary style dark comedy. It should be noted that Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play ridiculously exaggerated versions of themselves. Coogan being the sarcastic, womanizing movie star, to Brydon’s needy, always “on” impressionistic sidekick. Nearly every minute of each movie is filled with hilarity and heavy consumption of haute cuisine spanning the English country side and the coast of Italy. Yet, there is a more subtle back story of two men trying to figure themselves out. You shouldn’t watch The Trip to Italy before the original Trip, as you might lose out on the special chemistry these two guys have together. Nothing shows that more brilliantly than the back and forth Michael Caine impressions found early on in The Trip. My advice, watch them back to back for maximum viewing pleasure.
I Am Love (2009)
While this isn’t quite a movie about food from start to finish, it can be said that a major role in the story revolves around the particular aspects that haute lifestyle, including the cuisine, that a wealthy family enjoy. Food has the power to heighten our senses and desires, to make us love what might not be immediately understood. It can be used as a manipulator and a seducer, as the “lunch scene” shows how powerful a part passion can play in our decisions. The movie does move rather slowly but in visually stunning and complex way, as many Italian films do.