If you love both eating and entertainment, you might be the type of person who has an opinion on Tom Colicchio’s decision to cut that last cook on Top Chef. Being a foodie doesn’t give you a professional chef’s experience, but watching their magic onscreen can inspire even the most inexperienced cooks among us to pick up some tongs and want to learn. Here are nine older films that will motivate you to get back in the kitchen.
Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is fed up with his boss at a high-scale restaurant in Los Angeles and quits his job to open a food truck. The best part of this film is its attention to food prep — at one point, Favreau’s character butchers a whole pig and makes it look as easy as cutting butter; in another, you can almost taste the chimichurri steak sauce he makes from scratch.
While the story of a man reconnecting with his son is touching, its depictions of food offer a savoury balance to the plot’s sweetness. You’ll definitely want to make your own taco sauce after watching.
In Chocolat, chocolatier Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) opens a chocolate shop after travelling to a small village in France. The village prides itself on being prudish and religious, so eating something as sensual as chocolate is a sin (especially during Lent). Rocher turns that around with her creations while finding herself in a passionate love affair with Johnny Depp’s character, Roux. The cinematography accentuates the rich mocha colour and texture of its chocolate, and when she makes decadent mocha cakes, you might find yourself wondering which wine pairs well with your dessert.
Julie & Julia
Amy Adams plays a new career woman Julie Powell, who is writing a book about Julia Child (Meryl Streep) while cooking each one of her recipes. The food in this movie isn’t what gets you off the couch and into the kitchen — instead, it’s the harrowing cooking journey Powell takes as she learns from failure. When Powell burns a stew, Child’s parallel plot shows the famous chef making her own mistakes, too. If you love food and think you can’t cook, this film will motivate you to fail in the kitchen enough times to eventually get it right.
The late Irrfan Khan plays the uptight Saajan Fernandes, whose heart is melted little by little with food. A woman named Ila planned to cook lunches in hopes of getting the attention of her disinterested husband, Rajeev (Nakul Vaid), but when Ila’s lunchbox is delivered to Fernandes instead, a pen pal-like friendship is born. Ila begins to alter her recipes based on the stranger’s notes (with help from her mum), and the evolution of her dishes will make you want to cook someone the perfect dish for the simple satisfaction of their pleasure.
A small, furry mouse named Remy (Patton Oswalt) has a keen sense of taste and aspires to be a gourmet chef, and after messing around in a French restaurant he reveals himself to a human in hopes to advance his cooking skills. In the world of animated films, turning a mouse into a Michelin-worthy chef is the farthest plot from my mind — the idea of a mouse running around a kitchen and touching food is a pretty strong turn-off — but Remy finds the perfect blend of spices and the animation makes you feel like the aromas are wafting through your television and into your own home.
Like Water for Chocolate
Like Water for Chocolate is one FCC rating short of food porn. A passionate and unrequited love is carried out through titillating dishes as Tita (Lumi Cavazos) and Pedro (Marco Leonardi) are forbidden from seeing each other, but Tita finds a way for her cooking to speak for her. The movie involves sensual scenes with food, and suffice it to say that this film will make you want to cook for some particularly steamy reasons.
Bradley Cooper plays gourmet chef Adam Jones, whose arrogance and substance abuse gave a bad reputation. Despite his behaviour, though, he’s an excellent chef, and is working to change his control issues that make it difficult for him to work on a team. You’ll be excited by the science and glamorous side of food, and his precise and elegant presentation will make you want to go to cooking school, even if you’ve never picked up a knife.
The Hundred-Foot Journey
The Hundred Journey is a battle of technique versus flavour as Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), a French chef and stickler for process and perfection, is appalled at an Indian restaurant across the street. (I sense a bit of discrimination in…all of her actions. At one point, she even mentions wanting to build a high wall in front of their property). Suffice it to say, Madame Mallory doesn’t like the nontraditional spices and Indian flavours of her opposition, Hassan, who manages to get through to Madame Mallory with food. The walls between them come down and culinary fusion wins.
Soul Food portrays the tradition of the post-church Sunday dinner well known in Black families. The family drama and tough love is what makes this movie so inviting — along with a table full of mac and cheese, greens, chicken, mashed potatoes, and more. Soul Food will inspire you to eat, but you’ll also reminisce on the way food brings people together and yearn for quality family time, drama included.