“Food is memories”, no truer words have ever been spoken. One smell can bring you back in time, put you in a moment. Eating a simple dish can evoke such a strong memory, which is something that we never quickly forget.
This was the thought that I had going through my mind as I sat watching the movie 100 Foot Journey.
Spoiler Alerts Ahead! If you do not want to know about the movie, then stop reading now! If you do want to read about seeing this movie through the perspective of a chef and foodie, then continue on.
It is the story of a young chef Hassan Kadam’s culinary journey from Indian to France. He and his family finally settle in the village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in France. While there his father opens an Indian restaurant. Hassan cooks at his family’s restaurant but then begins to discover a new world of food and French Cooking.
Hassan Kadam is a young chef with a gifted palate. Throughout the story Hassan experiences a culinary metamorphosis. In doing so, this movie gives people an insight into what it is like to have a chef’s gastronomic passion in life.
What is most extraordinary is the food. The food, the cooking scenes and eating are as central to the story as the characters. The close ups, the way the scenes are shot, and the food are always front and center.
I know that I was enthralled, and I let out a few audible gasps of delight when the magnanimous shots of breath taking foods filled up the entire movie screen. There were so many foodie type people in the audience, we all shared in our admiration for the food cinematography.
I had one gnawing thought once I left the theater, was this an accurate portrayal of food in the film? Fusion of two distinct and steadfast cuisines are blended, but can it actually happen?
I had a myriad of questions about this movie. So I did what any foodie would do, I went to get answers. I decided to ask a friend of mine for some help on this matter.
I asked a friend who is a chef.
Blair Hohn III is a classically train chef from the Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts (Pittsburgh). Blair is the chef and Co- Owner of The Salted Pig. He has worked in various places in an around Pittsburgh. He did his apprenticeship at the prestigious Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh and is currently a chef at a private county club near the city.
I have had samples of his food, and it is just simply delicious. He will occasionally bring me some of his homemade fudge as well as Italian sausage. Pork and chocolate, oh my goodness it is so amazing and I love it when we get together.
So I asked Blair to go to the movies with me. I know that he was curious about this because of my incessant food questions since my first time seeing the film. I did bring him some of my homemade anise biscotti as a small bribe and that made him happy.
Afterwards I sat down and hit him with a barrage of question. Blair is passionate about his craft and loves to share his knowledge. He is a kind person who doesn’t mind explaining things to people who are not in the food business or as I like to say “people who don’t speak chef”. Chefs have their own language and acronyms. Blair will explain and share helpful hints but do it in a way that is easy to understand and home cook friendly.
The premise of the movie is that this Hassan infuses his natives spices into traditional French Cooking and reaches the culinary greatness. When I asked Blair about the blending of the 2 cuisines, as it was demonstrated in the movie, he said that “it can be done”.
French Cooking “has been around a long time, it had a very strict rules to be considered classical French Cuisine”. The chef (main character) was “thinking outside of the box, I like to think outside of the box… just because (a style of cooking) it has been done for 200 hundred years doesn’t mean that it is the only way to cook something”.
He added that “this (movie) was written for chefs who have passion…. (Hassan) has passion and knows how to push boundaries and that boundaries sometimes need to be pushed”.
For example the Hollandaise Sauce scene he pointed out to me. The fat that was used was olive oil and in traditional French Cooking it is butter. Blair makes his Hollandaise Sauce with butter but if you “want to think outside the box and use olive oil, then make it that way“.
During the omelet scene Blair let out a guffaw. I questioned him about this afterwards. “It was the banging of the omelet pan that is the way they teach you to do that”. He laughed because he remembers learning that technique in school. He looked at me and then said “that is the right way to make an omelet”.
Hassan possess an extraordinary palate and this is what separates him from other chefs. Hassan has the “gastronomic equivalent of perfect pitch”.
I asked Blair if this something you are born with it or is it something you can be taught?
He pondered this for a moment and said “both”. In culinary school “you are taught how to cook and blend spices (for cooking) but that doesn’t make you a chef”.
“Cooking and knowing what goes together, how they blend and taste together though experience (and working)…. that is how you learn and become a chef”.
I gathered through our conversation that you can have an idea about how tastes blend together, and build upon that. Some people are better than others at it and know how to push the boundaries in tastes.
At one point in the movie the main character Hassan Kadam reaches culinary success. He get his Michelin Stars and becomes a chef de cuisine at a premiere restaurant in Paris. I was curious about these elite chefs.
Blair’s first response to me was that “chefs of this caliber, Michelin Star, are like no other, they eat, sleep and drink food, and they are intense”. These stars are about just more than the food, they are about the restaurant as a whole.
He has cooked dishes that are on par with Michelin Star cuisine, however these restaurants comprise only a small segment of where people go to eat. He assures me that when a chef reaches this level it is because they are very good and have a talent, but it is also their whole life.
I asked him what happens if a chef loses a star, he smiled and said that some “don’t take the news so well” and he left it at that.
We finished up and left our separate ways. I believe that I had thoroughly picked his brain and was satisfied with all of the answers.
Did I like the film, absolutely? Will I add this to one my collections of foodie favorites, most definitely? I enjoyed the feel good aspect of the film along the food cinematography. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it with Blair and discussing it with him, I guess I was able to see this through a chef’s eyes. It was an enlightening experience and I will do it again.
If you want to see a fun food themed movie, I highly recommend 100 Foot Journey. It is a chef endorsed and a foodie approved film.
Some of the knives in the photo that Chef Blair Hohn uses were made by local Pittsburgh knife company Berkhouse Knifeworks.