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There are a more than a few things about the holidays that help make it the best time of the year. Great food, time off to enjoy a few good flicks, and a winter coat big enough to cover the results of both would be included on my list.
Movies about food resonate with audiences because so many of us have had the misfortune of working in food service. There’s nothing harder than waiting tables or prepping food during a rush. But, there’s a certain comradery develops among workers who deal with temperamental chefs, screaming managers, and low tippers. There is no other job prepares you better for the real world. You figure out how to work under huge amounts of pressure and how you should treat people who work hard for a living.
Great film-makers take this relatable moment and make it into an allegory about complex life topics. We’ve watched many a great chef fall to his pride, or a busboy get the girl. Our favorite movies about restaurants and chefs may have a deeper meaning, but they’ll still bring back that rush that you get from working toward a common goal under great pressure.
If you’re home for the holidays, enjoy these restaurant movies on your streaming service.
Bradley Cooper brings his bright blue eyes and loads of charisma to the lead role of Chef Adam Jones. Trying to impress his mentor, he starts leaning on drugs to handle the pressure and spirals out of control. His ego and a big streak of perfectionism cause him to bottom out. After cleaning himself up and getting back on his feet, he discovers his mentor has passed away. He struggles to get back on his feet after losing his father figure without backsliding into drugs. Stream it on Netflix.
Aasif Mandvi stars as Samir, a gifted sous chef in a fancy Manhattan restaurant who is forced to leave behind his dream job to run his family restaurant. While angry and working with his family, he meets someone who teaches him how cooking fits into the real meaning of life by teaching him to reconnect with his roots. He’s quickly intrigued and falls in love, which transforms his kitchen and his dishes. Sometimes your job chooses you instead of the other way around. Stream it on Netflix.
This movie chronicles the rise of McDonald’s fast-food chain. Michael Keaton is personable in the role of Ray Kroc, showing how the traveling salesman chased the American dream. After discovering that a restaurant has increased orders dramatically on the product he’s selling, he decides to investigate. He convinces the owners to let him franchise the concept, but after major ups and downs, he discovers the real money is in supplying the restaurants. An interesting look at the cutthroat role of business and food empires, this movie is for everyone who ever liked the golden arches. Stream it on Netflix.
Catherine Zeta-Jones holds her own against popular chef Aaron Eckhart as he tries to take over her position. As the Head Chef, she is tough, organized, and ruthless. Her sister is in a tragic accident and leaves her to care for her niece, taking her attention away from the restaurant. Struggling for work-life balance, and grieving the loss of her sister, a newly hired sous-chef threatens her and makes her upset. Nick runs the kitchen with laughter and patience, and the staff seems to prefer him. Their unmistakable chemistry sparks with promise until he takes over as Head Chef. Watch until the end to see if there’s a Happy Ever After in the kitchen. Stream it on Netflix.
Jon Favreau plays the role of Head Chef Carl Casper whose entire kitchen and career are sabotaged when a food critic visits. He bends to the will of the restaurant owner, who demands that he serve a menu against his wishes. A terrible review follows, and so does a big fight. He walks away from his career only to purchase a food truck and go out on his own. He ends up enriching his personal life with a better relationship with his ex-wife and son and falls in love with cooking again. Stream it on Amazon Video.
Since it’s not included in a traditional streaming service, this movie might cost you a few dollars. It’s so good, it had to be included on the list. Helen Mirren is magical as Madame Mallory, a snobby Michelin-star restaurant owner in France who is horrified by the little family restaurant that opens up across the street. Dislike on both sides turns into competition and hijinks. Troubles escalate until they finally find common ground in food and family. Stream it on Amazon Video.
I remember sitting through Ratatouille with my kids and not really enjoying it. It’s much easier to appreciate as an adult without screening it through the prism of small children. The film is all about the inner foodie that each of us has. It captures the authenticity of working in a kitchen and the stress of proving that you can do the job of your dreams. Remy, the mouse, aspires to be a chef, but his love for food and cooking alienates his friends and family. He reminds us that being different is hard, and standing out is even harder. Linguini, his human friend, and fellow chef, stands up for him under threats as well. It turns out that a couple of misfits can make something pretty special if they stand up for something important. Stream it on Amazon Video.
If you’ve served food or bussed a table, these movies will bring back memories. If you haven’t worked in food service, these great flicks may help you become a big tipper. Either way, enjoy your time off and lots of great food this holiday.
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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