The Hundred Foot Journey


The Hundred-Foot Journey has excellent credentials. Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg are among the film’s producers. The great Helen Mirren is the main star. The film is set in France. It’s based on a popular novel. It promises and delivers gorgeous food images.

But it’s not a particularly good movie.

The Kadam family is forced to leave India. Their ultimate destination is France. They take over a building directly across the street from a Michelin-starred restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). The Indians, led by Papa (Om Puri), are boisterous in sharp contrast to Mallory and her refined crew. They are just 100 feet away. (And I’d always thought France was on the metric system!)

One of Mallory’s cooks, the gorgeous Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), befriends young Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), sharing cookbooks with him and encouraging him to elevate his ambitions. He gets hired by Mallory, passes Marguerite on the kitchen pecking order and, thanks to his spicing up the food just a bit, brings the restaurant up a notch to two Michelin stars.

He then moves on the to big leagues, nabbing a chef gig in Paris. He leads an active social lifestyle, but begins to miss the folks back home.

Why does The Hundred-Foot Journey fall short of greatness? The characters are not particularly compelling. It’s pleasant to watch Hassan and Marguerite’s chaste budding romance, but I wasn’t particularly concerned about their ultimate fates. Meanwhile, it’s not a surprise when Papa and Mallory are shown to have soft spots in their hearts despite their tough exterior personalities. Still, I did not have a soft spot in my own heart for either of them.

Despite my misgivings, here’s why you may want to see The Hundred Foot Journey: It’s rated PG. No language, sex or violence. It’s like a Hallmark Channel movie with a bigger budget. Also, the food looks great. (Although this year’s other foodie movie, Chef, caused me to leave the theater hungrier than THFJ did.)

The film’s message—that different cultures (and cuisines) can combine to deliver great outcomes—is an admirable one. It’s also one that can be observed in dining establishments and other businesses around St. Louis every day.










Jiro Dreams of Sushi—–(Raw Talent)

Jiro Ono is a man with amazing talent and dedication. His sushi bar in Tokyo has three Michelin stars. He’s 85 years old and still going strong.

This movie is a “must see” for chefs and foodies. You will be impressed by the intense labor that goes into sourcing and preparation of what, when plated, appears to be simple food.

Fans of Japanese culture will love JDOS because we get a look at real Japanese people in their real lives. The film, directed by American David Gelb, is in Japanese with subtitles.

The movie, like the sushi, is presented simply. We see the work in the sushi bar, a visit to the fish market, the training of apprentices and an octopus massage. In the movie, we learn that you should massage your octopus for 40-45 minutes to make it taste right, not 30 minutes, which is apparently enough for some sushi sellers.

Jiro’s story is told by Jiro himself, his two sons, a former employee and a Japanese food writer.

Jiro recalls being on his own from a very early age. His work ethic is not unlike that of Americans raised during the Depression. (Except my father retired in his early 60’s. Jiro works on.) And, yes, Jiro admits that he does have dreams about sushi.

Jiro’s older son works in his father’s shadow, waiting for the day when he will take over. His younger son has his own sushi place, but still receives supervision from his father.

The food writer points out the qualities necessary to excel in the food biz and does not find Jiro lacking in any way. He mentions Jiro’s high level of excellence, which, through numerous meals he’s eaten there, has never fallen short.

JDOS is punctuated by glorious shots of the various sushi dishes being served, with a nice lingering shot of each piece on the plate, clearly identified.

I recommend buying the movie house popcorn or other snacks because this movie will make you hungry. It opens Friday, April 13, at the Tivoli in University City.