I don’t know about you, but besides cooking my top favourite past time is to watch movies. I love that you can escape into another world just from the seat of your sofa and experience a myriad of emotions. It probably isn’t going to be a surprise that I truly enjoy movies that are centred around food as I feed my soul (and by default my tummy) with food films that celebrate everything I love about food – the passion, the rituals, the taste. Here’s a list of ten movies that will inspire you to take to the kitchen and cook up a storm. Whether you’re in the mood for a drama, a comedy, a romance, or a documentary about chocolate, sushi, or even ratatouille, this list has something for your viewing pleasure that will also make you hungry for a homemade dinner.
This Disney-Pixar film is about a traditional French vegetable stew (hence the title) and a Parisian rat that loves to cook it. Only Pixar could pull off making a rat, Remy so cute and inspiring that seeing him in the kitchen of a restaurant makes the audience hungry from his culinary genius, rather than disgusted. Remy rises through the ranks of a top French restaurant by using the garbage boy, Linguini, who later becomes his friend to cook his dishes.
- Julie & Julia
This light comedy chronicles an office worker Julie who decides to start a blog and take on the challenge of cooking every recipe in celebrity chef Julia Child’s first cookbook. She cooks all 524 difficult recipes over the course of one year in her small apartment’s kitchen. The story is also interspersed with Child’s own story of her start in the cut-throat French cooking. This movie portrays cooking as a parable for life – something that’s not always manageable, but which you can learn a lot from.
- No Reservations
A chick flick portraying an uptight chef Kate, whose job running the kitchen in an upscale New York restaurant consumes her entire life until her sister passes away and her young niece, played is left in her care. After taking a mandatory leave of absence from work to adjust to her life as a caretaker, she comes back to the restaurant to find that her boss has hired another chef to help share the burden. The charismatic Italian chef who first is a source of annoyance eventually teaches Kate how to have a life (and love) outside work.
This movie is for all sweet tooths. A mysterious woman Vianne and her daughter show up in a small, conservative French town and open a chocolate shop just in time for the religious community to begin fasting for Lent. She draws the ire of many of the townspeople and especially the mayor over her flashy clothing, illegitimate child, and refusal to attend church. Eventually she begins to change the lives of the people in the town through her delicious chocolates, hot cocoa, pretty cakes, and as well as her accepting nature.
- Babette’s Feast
This movie presents food as an agent for change when a Parisian chef comes to an isolated village in Denmark to cook for two pious spinsters. They allow their cook to prepare a feast in honor of their late father’s 100th birthday, despite their spiritual concerns over the sensuality and decadence of French cuisine. Don’t watch this on an empty stomach—the final feast of turtle soup, quail in pastry, French pastries, and too many delicacies to count, will have you drooling big time.
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Motivate yourself to try making your own version of Japan’s most famous dish, but it could also be intimidating to watch the difficult process that goes into making the world’s best sushi. This acclaimed documentary follows the 85-year-old Jiro Ono, who is considered to be the world’s best sushi chef and was even declared a national treasure by Japan. Ono runs a sushi restaurant in a subway stop in Tokyo with his son as his second-in-command. The film also explores the father-son relationship, the difficulties faced by a son trying to succeed the master of sushi, and Ono’s own passion for the food he makes.
A Japanese comedy about truck driver Goro who helps out a struggling family ramen business helmed by a young widow Tampopo. The film is interspersed with short food-related scenes and celebrates the fact that food is (for many) the essence of life, and plays many roles as reward, ritual, rite, family and vice.
- Chicken Rice War
How could I not include Singapore’s best food movie involving our default national dish? A Romeo and Juliet story of a boy and a girl from feuding chicken rice stall families, who eventually fall in love. This is a feel good movie that shares that all we need is love (and chicken rice). Visually engaging montages of the chicken rice stall holders preparing their chicken rice for the day, including massaging the chicken and preparing the rice and stock will send you on a crazy craving.
- Nasi Lemak 2.0
Let me also include our neighbour, ok? One of Malaysia’s (rare) movies about food, it traces a young chef who is having a hard time getting his customers to appreciate his refined Chinese cooking. Frustrated, he goes on a road trip to rediscover his Malaysian roots. Along the way, he meets local ethnic communities and rediscovers his love and appreciation for the humble nasi lemak. In the end, he presents his own multicultural version of nasi lemak, one that celebrates the true spirit of Malaysia.
- Today’s Special
If you’re looking for something heartwarming (and spicy), this is your movie. An haute cuisine sous chef finds himself back at his family’s restaurant learning how to cook Indian food with flavourful results. In this process, he finds love and reconnects with his roots (heritage here is alluded to the bottle that infants drink from). Naan, Dhaal, Butter chicken, do I need to say more?