By Christopher Zoukis
Some friends of mine were playing ‘Name That Movie,’ which is where one person quotes a line from a movie and the others guess the movie. It’s a fun game to play, but not nearly as fun as going to a movie, hoping it might have one of those memorable scenes that you’ll never forget.
For some unexplainable reason, cooking movies have always mesmerized me. Probably because food, especially sharing food with others – in a restaurant for example – carries so much meaning. To me, eating dinner at a restaurant with friends or family is almost a religious experience, because of the sacramental elements. But now I’m getting maudlin. And the point of this article is to enumerate my favorite cooking movies, which all had great kitchens with just the right equipment that gave them just the right look and just the right feel. That’s why they’re so memorable.
So here they are:
- Ratatouille: wherein the director borrows from the classic Cyrano de Bergerac story, telling the tale of a rat who transforms the kitchen’s garbage boy into a celebrated chef. Great kitchen scenes, even if they’re animated.
- Like Water for Chocolate: a young woman expresses her passion for the man she loves through her cooking, which becomes almost magical. Sadly, the man is married to her older sister.
- Chocolat: A single mother and her young daughter move to a rural village in France, where they open a chocolate shop. If your one of those rare individuals that doesn’t like chocolate now, you will after you see this movie, which is slow and sexy, just like chocolate.
- Big Night: a David versus Goliath movie of great poignancy. Two brothers, restaurateurs, compete against a bigger, glitzier and more popular restaurant. The cooking scenes, literally, speak volumes about life and human emotions.
- 9 ½ Weeks: almost thirty years ago, Mickey Rourke was hot and Kim Basinger was even hotter than the fiery peppers Mickey fed her. And although I never figured out what the movie was trying to say, it was still a visual treat.
- Jurassic Park: well-meaning scientist clones dinosaurs on some distant island, but everything goes bad. The best and scariest scene in the movie takes place in the restaurant, as the two kids are chased by raptors through the kitchen.
And speaking of cooking movies, I’ve always wondered if they actually build the kitchens they use or if they shoot the scenes in the kitchens of real restaurants. I’m assuming they build them, because they want them to look a certain way. That means somebody has to go to the local restaurant equipment and supplies, purchase the equipment, haul it back, and then turn it over to the set designer, who then has to make it look real.
I guess that’s why kitchen scenes and cooking movies always get to me: because food and human emotions are so wrapped up in each other, and on the big screen they look so real.