“Every bite makes you think of being loved, and every bite takes you home,” Oprah Winfrey says of her latest project The Hundred-Foot Journey,”when reflecting on how the best chefs are able to recreate food memories of their past. Actor Manish Dayal (90210, Switched at Birth), plays Hassan Kadam, one such passionate chef with the ability to transform the palate and awareness of all he encounters. In real-life, Manish admits he’d serve either fried or grilled chicken to guests coming to dinner at his place. Although a South Carolina native, Manish’s parents immigrated from India like his (father) Papa Kadam (Om Puri, East is East)) in the movie. Manish says numerous dishes instantly bring childhood memories, including his mother’s dalwa with rice and duck. “If there were three things in front of me, I could always tell you which one my mom cooked because of the way it tastes,” Manish says.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is presented by DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment with a screenplay by Academy Award nominee® Steven Knight (Eastern Promises), based on the novel The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais, and produced by Academy Award® winner Steven Spielberg, Academy Award® nominee Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Black.
This heart-warming film explores class, culture and cuisine, as it follows widower Papa and his displaced family; ingenious chef son, Hassan (Manish Dayal); sous chef son, Mansur (Amit Shah, Lillyhammer); outspoken daughter, Mahira (Farzana Dua Elahe, Prince of Persia); young son, Mukhtar (Dillon Mitra); and young daughter, Aisha (Aria Pandya). After leaving India, the Kadams settle in the quaint village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in the South of France, where they open Maison Mumbai, a family restaurant. There, they blast Bollywood music, burn incense and introduce their customers to a whole new palate of exotic flavors – exactly one hundred feet; across from Le Saule Pleureur, a Michelin-starred, classical French restaurant that plays Mozart softly.
Le Saule Pleureur is run by the haute Madame Mallory (Academy Award® winner Helen Mirren (The Queen), a refined and prideful owner who feels threatened by Papa and his gifted son, Hassan. Although the owner of Le Saule Pleureur for 30 years, Madame Mallory senses a talent in Hassan that she doesn’t see often in chefs. Thus, she keeps a watchful eye on him. Madame Mallory’s gorgeous sous chef, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon, Mood Indigo) is also Hassan’s secret friend. The shy, introverted chef is smitten by the outspoken Marguerite, who doesn’t believe chefs should date. Instead, the couple spends quiet moments picnicking and gathering mushrooms and other fresh veggies in the picturesque forest.
Directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Academy Award® nominee Lasse Holström, (Chocolat, Cider House Rules, Safe Haven), The Hundred-Foot Journey is a character-driven piece that unfolds organically. Initially, Hassan’s siblings have misgivings about opening an Indian restaurant in the quaint village – let alone adjacent to Le Saule Pleureur. Although Mansur and Mahira believe in Hassan’s talents as a “legitimate chef,” they’re not sure he can measure up against the classical French competition. Nevertheless, the ever-protective Papa has the final word! But, Mama trained the aspiring chef Hassan in the art of Indian cuisine before dying in India. Thus, Papa and Hassan believe Mama’s final wish is to see Hassan carry on as the chef in the family.
Once Madam Mallory discovers her customers are feasting on Maison Mumbai’s spicy and delectable Indian offerings, she’s ready to pull the plug on the Bollywood-blasting operation. Madame Mallory tries to submit a noise ordinance, as well as other complaints to halt the new curry house. A war ensues between Madame Mallory and Papa, who become an “Odd Couple” of sorts. Both constantly complain to the village mayor and steal food items needed to make the day’s specialty dishes. Papa considers Madame Mallory’s gastronome war as racially motivated, while she considers herself as defending her French pride and love of culture and food. Layer-by-layer, The Hundred-Foot Journey reveals familial difficulties, societal, as well as cultural prejudices, and culinary challenges that both restaurants experience once Maison Mumbai opens. However, both restaurants can’t deny Hassan’s culinary talents, especially Marguerite, who secretly supplies Hassan with French cookbooks. To her delight, he masterfully executes the elementary, classical French training she’s provided!
As a coming-of-age movie, we see Hassan mature from an introverted, unsure teen to an early 30’s culinary expert in the art of European cooking. There is a mesmerizing moment when Hassan requests to make Madame Mallory an omelet, which is a test she secretly gives all chefs. Hassan creates a mouthwatering omelet: a feat that demonstrates his true calling! With Papa’s blessing Hassan is allowed to study French cuisine in Madame Mallory’s Michelin-star restaurant. This is the birthing point for Hassan’s next career phase. Without giving the rest of the movie away, I absolutely recommend this film for a date night, as well as adult movie escape. The Hundred-Foot Journey honestly delves into the foodie world, exploring cultural and societal rivalry in 21st Century France, using food as comfort and healing for the mind, heart and soul.
Opens Nationwide Aug. 8, 2014
Penny Scott is a book editor, blogger, playwright and busy SoCal mom of three.