The Hundred Foot Journey is a culturally clashing voyage of an incredible cook and a feud between his Indian family and a successful French restaurateur.
Food in this film signifies:
- Cultural dissimilarity
- Adaptation and acceptance
- Cultural pride
The beginning sees young Hassan Kadam appreciatively savouring the natural taste of a sea urchin at the markets. Whilst being taught “an education for all the senses” by his mother, the family’s restaurant is burnt to the ground in a political protest with Hassan’s mother being tragically killed in the fire.
The family relocate from Mumbai to Europe and open Maison Mumbai, a traditional curry house. Across the road in the small French town is a Michelin starred fine-dining restaurant serving foie gras, pigeon with truffles and other refined delicacies. Food and cultural wars begin between Papa and the snobbish owner, Madame Mallory, fighting over anything and everything. The Kadam’s make the mistake of showing Madame their menu. “Curry is curry is it not?” remarks Madame. Being territorial, she buys the whole market out of all of their ingredients, causing additional conflict.
The film’s real protagonist is Hassan. Groomed by his mother to take over the restaurant in Mumbai, Hassan shows a natural culinary talent and is Papa’s secret weapon in this cultural restaurant war. Despite Hassan’s style being influenced by his late mother’s selection of spices, he yearns to be a great chef and to experience and be accepted by other cultures. He eventually masters French cuisine after recipe books are left on his doorstep by Marguerite, Madame’s sous-chef, starting with the five French sauces. “Food is memories”, declares Marguerite.
Images depicted in the scenes from Madame’s kitchen and dining room show the importance and influence in which Madame has on the local society and also in the way in which the food communicates the message.
When Hassan proves to be as talented at conjuring up a béchamel sauce as tandoori goat, Madame seeks his help in securing a second Michelin star. Although this causes rivalry with his beloved Marguerite, with his own twist the star is awarded.
This film portrays the tension between immigrant generations, desire, acceptance, pride and endurance. Hassan wants to prove himself and to belong in a new world.
Smartly constructed, we see scenes of fluffy omelettes, succulent sauces and rich meats. This isn’t a movie to watch on an empty stomach.
Throughout this film we see the overwhelming heartache of immigrants wanting to belong to a new cultural identity as well as the need to assert their own identity through food. We see how the pride in one’s culture can easily cause obvious racism. We see an end to the cultural war through the appreciation and love of food and humanity. We also see how pride and determination can allow you to be anything you desire. A very tasty hundred foot journey.