I’ve always been fascinated by the power of cinema. No other creative medium transports you into another world in quite the same way. It’s a sensory journey that, although unable to physically engage our senses of taste and smell, gets us there through sight and sound; the look on someone’s face as they breathe in the fragrances locked up in the steam rising from a dish or seeing someone take that first bite of something and seeing them surrender to the pleasure of food, as if for the first time (and we’re not talking about that scene in When Harry Met Sally). My love affair with food started in my mother and grandmother’s kitchens, but my inspiration to become a chef had a lot to do with how these movies made me feel and where they transported me. If you haven’t seen them (recently), add them to your watchlist.

Image: imdb.com, Nordisk Film, Panorama Film International

Image: imdb.com, Nordisk Film, Panorama Film International

Babette’s Feast (1987)

I don’t think there’s another film that captures the sensual pleasure of food in quite the same way. The film takes place in 19th century northern Denmark in a super conservative village where any kind of pleasure was considered a sin at the time. But when a housekeeper (Babette) arrives at the family’s home from France (she was a chef at Café Anglais in Paris), she challenges their way of life through the incredible food she makes. The feast she prepares at the climax of the film must be one of the most memorable in film history. 

Chocolat (2000)

I remember when this movie came out. It felt to me like everywhere I went, people were asking whether I’d seen tjoklit yet. Although there’s very little that’s actually French about this film – apart from the name, location and Juliette Binoche (speaking in English) – it nevertheless captured something of the sensual pleasures of food. Like Babette’s Feast, Juliette Binoche’s character, a chocolatier, finds herself in a conservative village practising a craft that is frowned upon by the locals, but of course, she wins them over in the end. Chocolat might feel a touch too Americanised, but it’s a beautifully made film, and a must for chocoholics.

Image: imdb.com, Miramax

Image: imdb.com, Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios

Ratatouille (2011)

I know… but I’ve watched this movie so many times, I’d be lying if it didn’t find its way onto this list. That moment when Remy, the rat in Ratatouille, first discovers the pleasures of food as a symphony of light appears above his head just so perfectly captures the way I’ve always felt about food, and I suspect I’m not alone. In my mind, though, this is Pixar’s best. The characters are so amazing and complex for a “children’s movie”, and its depiction of a restaurant kitchen is just so authentic.

The Big Night (1996)

I think to any chef – especially when you’ve had your own restaurant – few movies will resonate as deeply. The Big Night is one of those films I find myself thinking about so often, particularly the final scene, I don’t even notice it anymore. It’s about two brothers who own an ailing Italian restaurant in 1950s New Jersey. Tony Shaloub plays the brother who refuses to compromise by catering to an Italian American palate, a stubbornness that sees them having to close the restaurant, but they go out with a bang by preparing a feast on their final night the likes of which they’d never done before in a bid to impress the “right people”. It’s a cautionary tale for any artist – not only chefs – but the message I got from the film was how important it is to remain true to your roots. Grow where you’re planted.

Image: eater.com, Rysher Entertainment, Timpano Production

Image: imdb.com, Bavaria Film

Mostly Martha (2001)

It seems to be a theme in foodie movies; something holding you back from surrendering to pleasure, but then through the joy of food you do, and your life is changed forever. Martha is a perfectionist (familiar?), who hides behind her precision and craft to shield her from any kind of intimacy. But then, she’s forced to compete with an Italian chef (passionate and charming, of course) who eventually melts her cold heart. It was only a matter of time until Martha spawned a Hollywood remake, but No Reservations (with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart) was not terrible.