Films that focus on food, whether it be on the preparation of the food, or the joyful consumption of it; have been around for a long time. With the release of 2022’s The Menu we thought this a propitious moment to promulgate a list of our favorite food preparation movies. Here they are, in no particular order:
1994 was a great year for movies. It gave us Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, Hoop Dreams, Léon and many more. It also gave us Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. The third film directed by Oscar-winner Ang Lee is the story of a chef who is the widowed father of three daughters. Daughters he prepares a weekly feast for, who do not enjoy the food he labors to make. Worse yet, he appears to be losing his sense of taste at the same time people are losing the ability to differentiate between his creations and ‘ordinary’ food. It is a masterpiece of comedic examination of relationships set against a backdrop of repasts that will make the audience’s collective mouths water. When we saw this movie in a theater in 1994, my date and I had to change our evening plans so we could dine at the best local restaurant we could afford.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the only documentary on this list. It is not a token inclusion. It tells the story of Jiro Ono, the man who created Sukiyabashi Jirō; the first sushi restaurant in the world to receive a three-star rating from the Michelin Guide. The rating was revoked by the Michlin Guide in 2019 because the restaurant no longer accepts reservations from the general public. As of 2019, the master chef was still working in his tiny, ten seat restaurant.
Travel back thirty years to 1992 and prepare to devour Like Water for Chocolate. Based on the debut novel of Laura Esquivel and directed by her-then husband, Alfonso Arau; it is a story of magical realism involving family traditions, family dynamics, love and the difficult nature of balancing all of these facets of life.
It happens all the time. A great foreign film does well in the U.S., and someone just has to remake it. That is the backstory of 2001’s Tortilla Soup. A remake of the aforementioned Eat, Drink, Man, Woman; the cuisine has changed from Chinese to Mexican. However, it is definitely delectable to view. It also features a terrific cast led by Hector Elizondo, Jacqueline Obradors, Elizabeth Pena, Raquel Welch and Paul Rodriguez.
1996 brought us a film co-written, co-directed and co-starring Stanley Tucci. He and Tony Shalhoub are brothers who own a restaurant in the 1950s in New Jersey. Shalhoub’s “Primo” is a chef who is the ultimate perfectionist. As such he doesn’t get along with customers who want Americanized Italian cuisine rather than his original creations. All that need be written about how excellent it is, it earned a 97% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.