Ten Cinematic Foods for National Chef Day


Well, technically it’s National Personal Chef Day, but I can bet that many of you dear readers are, in fact, your own chefs day in and day out. To make things easier, we’re just going to celebrate movie food overall. There are a number of films that are entirely based around food, but you can find countless examples of non-food-specific works that still use food as a symbol of some sort. Here are a few of our favourites (with so many honourable mentions, we may as well meet you again this time, next year for the next list). This is an unserious list, that is meant to enjoy certain films (rather than an actual guide).


Mulholland Drive: Diner Breakfast Dishes
It might seem like a joke to include any of the diner scenes from Mulholland Drive here, but you get a different tale each time we visit Winkie’s. We see an untouched breakfast by the man who had the awful dream; his friend cleans his plate. The latter two times (as spoiler free as possible), we see the declining of any coffee or additional foods, and the asking of the bill. It’s interesting to see how these small details really make up each time we visit this diner.


Chungking Express: Express Fast Food, or Expired Canned Pineapple
Feeling depressed? You can follow story one, and chase after all of the expiring canned pineapple in your local grocery stores, to remind yourself that we are all mortal. Once you’re done being sick (don’t eat as many as He Qiwu), maybe it’s time to look forward and be a part of the rush at the best express counter in town. Maybe the employees there will also be jamming to sixties pop tunes? Hopefully, so.


Pulp Fiction: Hawaiian Burgers, or McDonald’s
Who knows what Big Kahuna Burger will ever taste like, because it sadly does not exist. You can get creative, though. Maybe toss some pineapple (ripe, this time) slices into the burger, or go ahead and try and replicate a poke bowl inside of the sandwich. If this is too much, or our recommendations are awful (they likely are), just get a quarter pounder (or a royal with cheese). It’s just easier.


Alien: Whatever They Were Having Before They Were Rudely Interrupted
Do any of you remember what the passengers of the Nostromo were having before the rude chestburster decided to ruin everyone’s time? It looks like all sorts of eclectic dish options: cereal, blueberries, noodles, mangos, and cans of beer. Let’s not forget what looks like salad tossed in there, too. Whatever this weird concoction was, we have to finish this mean forty years later. It’s only right.


Ratatouille: Ratatouille
It’s the easy way out, but it’s the very dish that sent Anton Ego into one of the greatest scenes of the last twenty years. Sometimes, food can transport us to places we forgot were a part of us. Remy cooks up the titular dish, despite being a meal for “peasant[s]”, and he yields perfect results: a reflection of life. I’m not sure if any of us can match the little rat’s capabilities, but it’s sure worth a shot. Plus, ratatouille looks to be a bit more challenging than the common everyday dish we usually make ourselves.


Tampopo: Ramen
It’s in the name of the film. Dubbed the first “ramen western” (in lieu of spaghetti westerns), Tampopo is one of those films that will leave you as hungry as ever once you are done watching it. If you want to chow down on some piping hot ramen, that is certainly your prerogative. You may come for the food, and leave with the soul searching and humour (usually it’s the other way around for films).


Cries & Whispers: Red Wine
Everything in this film is black, white, or red. Naturally, the drink of choice during the confrontational dinner scene is red wine. It helps to enrich the scene, but it becomes a disturbing piece of imagery shortly afterwards. Glass contains the red fluid, yet it becomes the object that pierces and creates a new crimson liquid (in the form of blood). It’s extremely unsettling, in a near-biblical way.


A Woman Under the Influence: Spaghetti
Outside of all of the other fantastic parts in this film, I will bet there is not a single person that was not craving spaghetti after watching A Woman Under the Influence. As John Cassavetes uses long scenes to create moods, we were there for the creation of the dish, and the slow devouring of it. As things get uncomfortable and very real (like being left in a pot of boiling water), we witness the characters do exactly what the pasta is doing: letting off some steam.


Moonlight: The Chef’s Special
Many years after Chiron’s teen years were flipped upside down, he meets up with Kevin to reconcile. Kevin “hits [him] up with that Chef’s Special”: a Cuban dish of all sorts. Maybe you can’t spin something up as wild as Kevin can, but you can also not follow this entry too literally. You can cook whatever you feel best at for your loved one, to see them light up (even if you have no need to ask for forgiveness). Or, you can just seek out the local Cuban restaurant. That works, too.


Daisies: The After Dinner Special
Technically, you can have anything being served. The idea is to rebel against the upper class’ fancy dinners by stomping across the table. Don’t literally do this. None of us want to be liable for what you do at your place, or at the place of another. We could have ended off on The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie, where no one ends up eating dinner for whatever umpteenth reason, but Daisies’ unorthodox approach seemed more liberating for us to attempt (again, not literally).

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Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.