Female Chefs in Film: The Hundred-Foot Journey

Tonight after work, Honey Bunny and I had an impromptu date night at home, ordering a pizza and popping in a movie. I’d heard good things about The Hundred-Foot Journey and Honey Bunny was in the mood to watch something new, so we selected that.

On the surface, The Hundred-Foot Journey is a charming story of an Indian family who opens a restaurant literally one hundred feet away from a Michelin starred establishment in the French countryside. There’s a Romeo and Juliet type love story between the talented son who had learned how to cook by watching his mother and the classically trained female (!) sous chef of the haute cuisine kitchen across the street. Without spoiling the movie for everyone, there were ups and downs and a happy ending.

It’s the kind of movie that I would usually enjoy, but sadly it just made me angry and I know that is entirely due to the life I lead now. Kitchen Life is not easy for anyone but I think it is especially difficult for a female to rise through the ranks in this male-dominated industry.

In the movie, Marguerite had labored and toiled for years to earn the title of sous chef with the hope of becoming head chef after that, but it takes just a few months for the prodigy Hassan to shine as the golden boy at Le Saule Pleureur, wowing the Michelin critics with the incorporation of Indian spices into traditional French dishes. The movie plays off Marguerite’s reactions as jealousy but if you ask me, she is understandably frustrated that her hard work is being overlooked because of someone who just showed up and blew everyone out of the water. I’d be livid!

A similar situation occurred in Ratatouille when Collette was concerned that Linguine was just using her so that he could impress the chef and move past her. Though he did finally give proper credit to Remy for his culinary skills, Collette never gets her moment in the sun and at best becomes business (and romantic) partners with Linguine. Luckily, the (animated) food porn, feel-good primary story, and cute anthropomorphic rodent protagonist keep that movie on my all-time favorites list.

Anyway, I was a bit sad and angry and disappointed to realize that not just one but at least two movies depict this dynamic of the male “star” chef and the hardworking female who will always work under him regardless of her own merits, skills, talent, ideas… It’s archaic and a remnant of the way this industry used to be.

It also just inspires me to work harder so I can achieve my dream of earning a Michelin star (or similar prestige) someday, still a rare accomplishment for females in the industry. An unexpected realization to have come from watching an ordinary ol’ movie chosen for date night.

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