For cinephiles with a taste for food porn, opening in theaters Friday, October 23, is “Burnt” the redemption tale of a talented, arrogant chef played by Bradley Cooper who attempts to rebuild his life and his career in London, in the hopes of returning to Paris to open a new restaurant that will gain three Michelin stars. Directed by John Wells (“August: Osage County”) and crafted by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Steven Knight (“Locke,” “Eastern Promises”), “Burnt” has us fantasizing about our favorite chef-related movie meals from the past. Here are five of the best food dramas for food-porn addicts.
“Big Night” (1996)
Immigrant brothers — one a brilliant, uncompromising chef, the other his levelheaded liaison with the world’s unfortunate preponderance of food philistines — are desperate to save their Italian restaurant by pulling together a perfect dinner in time for a chance visit by singer Louis Prima and his entourage. Directed by actors Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci, who also co-wrote the script, this small-scale drama feels so lived-in and real because the characters, passionate in so many relatable ways (food, love, family), are instantly recognizable. Plus, the food prep is filmed in mouth-watering detail.
Maybe all you need to know about this one is it’s a Japanese comedy Western about the quest for the perfect noodle recipe. Detailed instructions for how to craft and consume a flawless ramen dish, as well as creative variations on the well-acknowledged relationship between food and eroticism, pepper the strangely engaging story of a widow who finds unexpected help from a trucker in her quest to open the world’s greatest noodle shop.
“Eat Drink Man Woman” (1994)
Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s Taipei-set third film, which was nominated for a best foreign-language film Oscar, focuses on a taciturn widower and master chef who’s having trouble connecting with his three live-at-home daughters and the culinary art that he once loved as much or more. The poignant comedy has a light touch, and its recipe of humorous romantic entanglements, authentically complex family dynamics, and sumptuous food is deliciously served.
“Tortilla Soup” (2001)
In this exquisite food imagery drama retired Mexican-American chef Martin Naranjo shares an L.A. home with his three gorgeous, but single, adult daughters. Though he long ago lost his ability to taste, Martin still lives to cook incredibly lavish dinners for his loved ones and to serve them in a family-style ritual at traditional sit-down meals. Although the women humor their father’s old-fashioned ways, each of them is searching for fulfillment outside the family circle. But they’ll all discover that the recipe for happiness may call for some unexpected ingredients.
“Like Water for Chocolate” (1992)
Adapted by Laura Esquivel from her own 1989 novel, this romantic drama directed by Alfonso Arau revolves around the stymied love of a rancher and a young woman confined to her family’s kitchen in early-twentieth-century Mexico. Through magical realism, the sensual film shows how food, and the deep feeling we put into preparing it, can — literally — provoke overwhelming emotion in those who consume it, whether it’s joy, sadness, or unrestrained sexual desire.