Reflections on the Silver Screen: Food Fight
Title: The 100 Foot Journey
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
The 100 Foot Journey is a dramatic comedy set in the rustic countryside of France. It centers on the cultural and culinary clash when the Kadam family establishes an Indian restaurant 100 feet across the road from the upscale local restaurateur, Madame Mallory.
After a mob burns down the Kadam’s first restaurant in Mumbai, the family traverses Europe to establish another restaurant. With Mama Kadam lost to the same fire, it is up to Papa Kadam and his five children to carve out a new life. After their van unexpectedly breaks down beside a small French village, Papa Kadam chooses to settle there. Papa decides to buy a dilapidated building and turn into an authentic Indian restaurant. But as his children observe, there are multiple challenges facing them. French people don’t like Indian food and a renowned restaurant stands exactly 100 feet away posing a threat to their success. The rival restaurant is run by a middle-aged stern French woman, Madame Mallory, who delights in her food’s “subtlety of flavor” and prides herself on her Michelin star.
With Madame Mallory and Papa Kadam positioned as rivals, a full out war begins. Each side is willing to use extreme measures, and Madame Mallory starts by buying all the ingredients necessary for the Kadams’ opening night menu which forces her new competition to drive several hours to get the food they need. Papa Kadam consequently buys all the ingredients for Mallory’s signature dish she prepares for the President of France. In an attempt to mend tensions and display his culinary talent, Hassan prepares the dish of Pigeon Truffles and delivers it to Madame Mallory, only to be met with disappointment as she throws away Hassan’s offering.
After another tragedy strikes the Kadam family, Madame Mallory strives to end the bitter competition with an offer of reconciliation. Mallory explains to Hassan, that she wants him to work for her so that he can learn the art of French cuisine. After the deal is settled, Hassan brings his Indian flare to the solemn French dishes at Madame Mallory’s. Within a year he earns the restaurant a second Michelin star, and as Madame Mallory predicted, a prestigious chef from Paris whisks him away to the culinary stage where Hassan becomes the main star.
Hassan dazzles the audience with his mastery of flavor, technique, and presentation, yet his life seems empty and tasteless. The fame he sought by showcasing “his” talents is unfulfilling. While Hassan works late one night, a fellow chef invites him to share his meal of Indian food. As Hassan takes a bite, the spices send him back to the flavors and aroma of home. He realizes as the infamous chef, James Beard, once said that “food is our common ground.” In this film, it did just that. In the beginning, Madame Mallory’s greed and the Kadam’s pride created a divide between the two; a 100-foot chasm that closed with a single step of grace.
Some of the highlights of the film include mouth-watering food, mesmerizing settings and emotional arcs ranging from laughter to tears. Although the culinary art of the characters is the focal point, the moral meaning of the film lies in the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Even though the two rivals did not originally display that attitude, by the end of the movie the protagonist, Hassan, reveals that he has finally learned that brotherly love and grace is far dearer than prestige or culinary mastery.
Ungaro, Susan. “Letter from the President: The Quotable James Beard.” James Beard Foundation, 2014, www.jamesbeard.org/blog/letter-president-quotable-james-beard.