Menu Changes Under New Management
Tampopo, directed by Juzo Itami is a classic Japanese film which chronicles how a truck driver (Tsutomu Yamazaki) helped a widow (Nobuko Miyamoto) transform a dingy restaurant into a money making establishment.
The first thing he did was to change the menu. He took her to rival restaurants to steal secrets and also introduced her to famous chefs that showed her how to prepare special dishes.
The emphasis on health and fitness might eventually convince film producers not to make movies about food.
Healthy eating is being kind to my heart, the generator that keeps me going but there is so much anti-food feeling out there, people who eat might be called ‘enemies of the people’ very soon.
Have you ever seen a movie where the chefs boil everything? There is always smoke coming out of a pan or a wok. Chefs use mittens to remove something from the oven because it was working some food in there.
Chefs are not happy at all but mum is the word. They don’t want to lose the few customers they have left, but they are not happy about the way health and fitness purists are taking the fun out of preparing food.
Last Holiday, Wayne Wang’s film starring Queen Latifah is a movie about food and celebrity chefs. It also questions the extent to which diet has influenced dining out, when diners demand food with no salt, butter or cream.
Last Holiday as a Recipe Film
Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah) cooks at home and gives the food to the boy next door. She is also a fan of Chef Didier, a European chef on TV. She cooks while watching him. She then takes photos of the final product and files it in what she calls her book of possibilities.
I did not appreciate those kitchen scenes when I used to watch the DVD. I do now because I’m also a food blogger. I have my own ‘test kitchen’ which is probably smaller than yours. Anyway I have to take photos for the blog when the food is ready.
Last Holiday as a Food Presentation Film
Food on a plate should be flirty, come and get me, come and eat me.
Food presentation is like a wedding, the bride, the wedding bouquet and bridesmaids.
Food presentation is a big thing in restaurants, especially those that have a maître d', crisp white tablecloths, cutlery, as in silver forks and knives, waiters that speak in European accents and chefs with loose screws in their heads like Chef Didier, played by Gerard Depardieu.
Georgia Byrd has a mission. She is going to have a good time before she dies in three weeks and that includes having the best clothes and the best food in Prague.
A waiter tells her Chef Didier never repeats a menu so it will not be there the following day. She orders everything, just to have a taste. Chef Didier is so impressed, he goes to her table to see such a diner.
He does not like people who cannot enjoy food in restaurants because they are worried about calories. They hit it off because Georgia is a chef in her own right.
Wayne Wang the director robbed us in editing. I would have loved to see more prepared dishes but what I saw did justice to presentation. It is artwork on a plate. I think I saw the following in the movie.
Osso Buco (lamb shank) sitting pretty on Italian polenta
Baked red snapper with a dash of some egg sauce
Some dish that looked like a Cornish hen on a bed of something green
Last Holiday as a Food Preparation Film
Food is mainly fruit and veg, poultry, fish, and any kind of meat you eat in your country. Food is like shooting a film.
There is something called pre-production where the producer double checks that all the things the director needs are in place: snow boots, skis, dressing rooms for actors, hotel rooms for the crew and actors, a bus that is needed in one scene, everything.
One of my favourite scenes in Last Holiday is when Georgia Byrd goes to the market in Prague with Chef Didier. He buys fresh fish and other supplies while they gossip about guests in the hotel who think eating is a menace to society.
Film: Eat Drink Man Woman
There is also a chef in this film directed by Ang Lee. It opens with Chu (Sihung Lung) a famous Taipei chef preparing the Sunday dinner for his three daughters. The scene I like is where he blows a duck, presumably for Peking duck. There is fire in the kitchen, food is marinated, frogs prepared, onions chopped. Oh! It is a sight to see.
I thought the film was about Chu’s daughters and how they wanted to leave the nest and live their own separate lives.
Jia Jen, eldest daughter is a school teacher, very reserved
Jia Chien, middle daughter, busy airline executive
Jia Ning his youngest works in a fast food restaurant
It turns out that the movie is about Jia Chien (Chien-lien Wu) and Chu her father. She politely criticises him about his cooking. An ingredient is missing here. You put too much of it there. Chu does not like it because he is the Pope of Food at work.
She is doing it out of concern. Off all his daughters, she is the only one that loves cooking. She is worried that he is losing his sense of taste. She also knows that he does not want to admit that his health is failing.
Jia Chien is the epitome of independence at the beginning of the film. She enjoys sex when she wants it and declares to the family that she has bought a condo. The film ends with her cooking up a storm at home because she decided to buy her father's house.
Food movies are very difficult to shoot for directors. That is why there are very few of them. Kitchens have fire, steam from pots, food that sizzles and pop, hot ovens, slippery floors, no place to put the camera and microphones, very challenging indeed. It is very difficult to describe how spectacular Eat Drink Man Woman is. Let's try Latin. Magnum Opus!