A couple of years or so ago I remember reading something about the book The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais. As a result, I went out and bought the book and it has sat, unread, on my shelves ever since. When I heard that there was a movie coming out I had every intention of reading the book, but given my current lack of reading it just didn't happen. I therefore broke my own rule and decided to watch the movie before reading the book.
With a lead actress with the standing of Helen Mirren, a gorgeous setting in the south of France, a fun story exploring and contrasting the differences between Indian and French traditions and lots of beautiful food, this movie is a treat for the senses. It is a gentle story, and there is little in it that will offend people. At times it is a little ponderous, maybe a deliberate choice from the production team which includes such big names as Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Lasse Hallstrom.
The story starts in India where the Kadam family runs a successful restaurant until they lose everything. The family is determined to make a new start and head to Europe where fate lands them in a small French village. Whilst most of the family wants to move on it seems that their life is instead going to now take the form of running an Indian restaurant in a run down building that happens to be opposite a Michelin star restaurant which is run by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).
Madame Mallory's restaurant is her life, and she has devoted herself to the pursuit of an illusive second Michelin star. Everything is perfect and precise, with traditions treasured at all costs. She is appalled that there is to be an Indian restaurant a hundred feet away, especially once she sees the fake temple facade and hears the loud music that emanates. So begins a battle of wills between Madame Mallory and Papa Kadam that doesn't seem to have any hope of a ceasefire until a particular incident thaws the relationship. Click on the link to see an example of the very early banter between the two combatants.
Whilst this aspect of the story is key to framing the story, it is really young chef Hassan's story that is the heart. He learned to cook at his mother's knee and is passionate about food, not only the Indian food that the restaurant specialises in, but also French food of his new home. Despite earlier rejection, Hassan persists in trying to persuade Madame Mallory to let him come and cook in her kitchens, bringing his knowledge of Indian traditions and flavours and combining them with the traditional French cuisine, surprising everyone especially Madame Mallory.
One of the other major scenes in the movie is when Hassan is allowed to cook for Madame Mallory who insists that she can tell if a chef is any good or not by just taking a single bit of an omelette. I have to say I would love to taste something that is so good that you can change someone's life! Here is the recipe for Omelette aux fine herbes.
There are also a number of other recipe cards around the intenet including Chicken Tikka and Sauce Tomate.
Throw in a little romance, some humour, delicious looking food from both Indian and French food traditions, mix well and you end up with a gentle film that will entice most viewers who enjoy foodie films.
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