The 2014 movie, “Chef,” stars John Favreau as Carl Casper, a gourmet chef at a popular and swanky Los Angeles restaurant. After a bad review precipitates an epic rant gone viral on social media, Casper trades in his high-paying chef position for a food truck. He travels from Miami to Los Angeles, making and selling culturally inspired dishes from Cubanos and Yucca Fries, to Po’Boys and Barbecued Brisket. This charming comedy shares people’s love of back-to-basics food and the food-truck craze that has taken America by storm with its popular gourmet-street-fare scene. “Chef” is the latest in a long tradition of Hollywood releases in which food is so integral to the narrative that it might as well be one of the lead characters. Here are three delightful films with the enticing, mouth-watering dishes they celebrate.
FILM: “Julie and Julia”
DISH: Boeuf Bourguignon
“Julie and Julia,” the 2009 hit starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, juxtaposes the lives of chef Julia Child and blogger Julie Powell. The latter takes on the daunting task of cooking every dish in Childs’ “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in one year. In the movie, Julie cooks boeuf bourguignon for Judith Jones, who was the real life editor responsible for publishing Childs’ classic cookbook.
“Boeuf bourguignon is my go-to stew,” said Kate Metzger, executive chef at il Naso Wine Bar and Restaurant in Ketchum. “It’s one of those rainy day dishes for me—I start it in the afternoon and have it for dinner.”
According to Metzger, any kind of stew meat will work, because the dish cooks for several hours. “I like to use chuck roast, and crimini mushrooms, cipollini onions, bacon, tomato and beef stock and, of course, two bottles of wine—one to cook with and one to drink while cooking,” Metzger offered with a smile. “I use a Cote du Rhone wine, but any Burgundy or pinot noir will work,” she added.
Boeuf bourguignon, like many stews, is even better the day after it’s made. Metzger recommends putting the leftovers in sandwich-sized Ziploc bags to freeze so you have ready-to-go meals when needed.
FILM: “Like Water for Chocolate”
DISH: Quail with Rose Petal Sauce
In the critically acclaimed film, “Like Water for Chocolate,” the main character, Tita, struggles to claim her forbidden, true love (who married her sister in order to be close to her), as well as her independence. Tita cooks a quail and rose petal sauce dish with her true love in mind, and her passion infuses the dish.
Derek Gallegos, chef at Sun Valley Resort, said that the rose petal sauce is a sweet, floral sauce, and can be made with plums (or guava), rose petals, anise, chestnuts and honey as the basic ingredients. “Fresh rose petals can be hard to find in the winter (and so can fresh plums …), but you could also try making a demi-glacé of quail bones by browning them in a pan and deglazing the pan with rose water,” Gallegos said. Rose water is used as aromatherapy, so you’ll be able to smell the roses rather than taste them. “You could use crumbled, dried rose petals as a garnish too, if fresh roses aren’t available,” he added. Steer away from grocery store roses, as it is hard to know what they’ve been sprayed with. Organic red roses are best.
Pixar’s hit “Ratatouille” wowed audiences of all ages with its debut in 2007. Remy, a loveable rat, endears us with his wit and his cooking. Linguini, a young garbage boy, befriends Remy and helps his new friend achieve his lifelong goal of becoming a chef. In the film’s last scene, Remy cooks ratatouille for the evil food critic, Anton Ego. With the first bite, the flavors in the ratatouille bring Ego back in time, transporting him to his childhood as a young boy, eating his beloved mother’s ratatouille.
“Sometimes I’ll have a raspberry or strawberry with great flavor that will bring back childhood memories for me,” said Scott Mason, owner and chef at Ketchum Grill and Enoteca Restaurant. “Or something as simple as a farm fresh egg, scrambled with cream, reminds me of my childhood and my grandmother making me eggs,” he added. As far as ratatouille goes, Mason likes to make it as a side dish, first chopping the eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and onions, then roasting them. Mason seasons his ratatouille with thyme, oregano and garlic.
“I don’t cook it in the traditional sense with the layering of vegetables,” he said. “Everybody’s is different. The eggplant and zucchini breaks down nicely and can become pulpy, if that’s the texture you’re aiming for.”
Sarah Buchanan, chef at The Grill at Knob Hill, also favors the gratin style for ratatouille. “Vegetables like eggplant, zucchini and even potatoes work great, and can be diced up small to make a gratin,” Buchanan said.