Best Food Films of the Decade

Posted by: Rebeca Surber

For some, food is just something to consume in order to survive. For others, food is an all consuming passion.  I am in the second category.  The category of people who are in the middle of lunch discussing what will be for dinner, the category where recipes, the Food Network and menu planning could fill an entire afternoon or two, the category where going to deluxe grocery stores or farmer’s markets and just being with the food is like a trip to Disney.

How does all of this food talk relate to movies? Much like fava beans and a nice chianti, food and movies have gone hand in hand for quite a while. Haven’t you ever watched a movie and wanted to dive into the screen and be a part of the meal? To enjoy each flavor, inhale the fragrances of delicious culinary creations? Keep in mind we are discussing food not acting chops. It is my great pleasure to serve you the best food movies of the past decade. The films are not in any particular order, but are arranged in the order that each course was served. Bon Appetit.

WOMAN ON TOP (2000) Vertigo impaired yet talented Brazilian chef, Isabella Oliveira (Penélope Cruz) flees to San Francisco from Brazil once she catches her husband cheating on her.  While in California her cooking talents lead to a television show giving her remorseful husband a way to track her down. The food takes me back to Brazil and I can almost taste the heat of the chili pepper and salt from the sea. Even though the story is a bit hokey the food looks incredibly tasty.

Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche

CHOCOLAT (2000) Anyone who walks away from this film not craving chocolate and wanting to put cocoa powder in everything from steak rubs to coffee is crazy. Vivanne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter move into a small and morally strict French town and shake things up when they avoid church and open up a chocolate shop. The dinner scene honoring Armande (Judi Dench) has to be a favorite movie dining experience. I want to eat every food item in this movie. Nom nomnom nom.

TORTILLA SOUP (2001) TORTILLA SOUP is the American version of Ang Lee’s 1994 EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN. Both films have similar storylines but one has Taiwanese food, the other Mexican.  In the first nine minutes of this movie we are introduced to the three different daughters of Chef Martin Naranjo (Hector Elizondo) and most importantly, we see him prepare multiple elaborate Mexican dishes. The kitchen in this house is amazing and the food looks divine.  When Elizondo’s character prepares a school lunch for a family friend’s young daughter, I want to knock that little girl out of the way and steal her food. Delish!

MOSTLY MARTHA (2001) This German film (originally billed BELLA MARTHA) opens up with delightful descriptions of how to prepare quail and instantly I’m salivating. From the scenes in the restaurant kitchen to dishes created in the comforts of Martha’s apartment you will be craving her culinary creations. The story follows Martha (Martina Gedeck), a stubborn and established chef. Her world is flipped upside down when her sister dies in a car crash leaving her daughter in Martha’s care.  Throw in a bit of kitchen competition and a little romance and this story will more than satisfy your craving for a great film.

Jon Cho, Neil Patrick Harris and Kal Penn

HAROLD & KUMAR GO TO WHITE CASTLE (2004) Oh the shenanigans that a drug induced White Castle run can create! In this flick we follow Harold Lee (John Cho) and Kumar Patel (Kal Penn) as they attempt to reach White Castle on a random Friday night. I’m not going to list all the hilarious and over the top obstacles they face but you know they mean business when it comes to their craving. I’ve never been much of a White Castle gal, but I know what it feels like to crave a specific food and how the craving can grow and become something of an obsession until you finally get to eat that exact meal. Seeing them down the enormous White Castle order deserves a slow clap or standing ovation.

NO RESERVATIONS (2007) Even though this is the remake of 2001’s MOSTLY MARTHA, the food makes me hungry just the same. Kate is the hard as nails chef (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who gets an attitude adjustment by the charismatic Nick (Aaron Eckhart). The spaghetti Nick makes for Kate’s niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin) is mouthwatering and I want to have a taste.  I prefer the original film but enjoyed this one all the same and the growling sensation in my stomach made this film a must to add to this list.


RATATOUILLE  (2007) Pixar does not disappoint in this fun food filled film. We get to follow Remy the rat pursue his culinary dream while assisting kitchen inept Linguini get the girl and run the restaurant. Even though the food is animated, it still makes me hungry all the same. I can totally relate to this rat. When Remy dreams of assorted food combinations and gets caught up in his menus without much attention for his surroundings I feel like we are kindred spirits.

WAITRESS (2007) This movie has heart, hope and…PIES! Keri Russell tackles the role of Jenna Hunterson, an unhappily married pregnant waitress in a small town. Employed by a local diner, Jenna creates unusual pies that are a sensation for all who enjoy eating them. The visual of seeing how each pie is created and named is a delight. From pie crust, filling and toppings your mouth will be watering.  I’ve never been much of a pie person but after watching this movie I changed my mind.  I’ll take a slice (or two?)please.

Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia

JULIE & JULIA (2009) Inspired by the book of the same name, this movie follows Julie Powell, a woman in current day New York  intertwining with the story of Julia Child and how she became a household name and icon. Julie (Amy Adams) is precious and relatable. Who hasn’t had a too tiny kitchen and made a mess of a meal before? Or had over ambitious culinary goals? Seeing Julia (Meryl Streep) find her footing and develop the cookbook Mastering The Art Of French Cooking is a joy. When she first arrives in Paris, orders the fish and exhales the word “butter” I know that I want to eat that very meal. Butter plus anything equals delicious.

EAT PRAY LOVE (2010) Granted, I am not the biggest fan of this film (see my Blu-ray review); I am a huge fan of the culinary montages while Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) visits Italy.  Gelato! Pizza! Pasta! Figs & Prosciutto! Even when she and her friends host Thanksgiving I’m daydreaming of all the side dishes that accompany yummy turkey.  When Liz says “I’m having a relationship with my pizza” truer words were never spoken; I know I’ve fallen in love with food before and cannot wait for my next food crush.

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