A culinary guide to movies and TV shows
After a weekday that’s felt a million hours long, on a day that’s highlighted by 10 p.m. classes, club meetings and a protein bar for breakfast, the only way to feel more in control is to pick up a frozen meal at Trader Joe’s and queue up something from the best movie genre — food movies. Onscreen chefs who chop vegetables at superhuman speeds are the stars that give us hope and make something mundane into a wondrous spectacle. Without further ado, here are seven movies and TV shows about food, each paired with a simple snack to give you that much-needed comfort after a brutal day.
“Julie & Julia” (2009)
Amy Adams and Meryl Streep stand at the glorious helm of this film, bridging the gaps between the 1950’s and post-9/11 2001, Paris and New York City, and their respective idiosyncratic supportive husbands Chris Messina and Stanley Tucci. The movie immerses the viewer into a world where although things can go disastrously wrong and life can be painfully mundane, the value of a good home-cooked meal is never underappreciated.
Trader Joe’s Quiche Lorraine is the perfect pairing with this film. Why? It’s pure warmth when straight out of the oven. Simple and French, but most importantly, laden with butter. It’s a perfect food for when you’ve come back from a long day and cooking is the last thing on your mind, yet still want to eat something that feels like it was homemade.
This is a generational favorite. The music, a surprisingly charming villain in the form of Anton Ego, and the lights and sounds of Paris all contribute to the legacy of “Ratatouille.” However, above all else is the food. From crackling breads and salty cheeses to glistening sauces you can almost taste, it’s the perfect movie to put on to appreciate the excitement of a good meal.
The Charcuterie Tasting Board at Target is great with this movie. Why? The scene where Remy pairs together different combinations of ingredients as colors synthesize behind him says enough about this choice. A meal can be simple as long as it’s thoughtful and maximizes potential flavor.
“The Bear” (2022)
This show is the sharp new kid on the block. Starring Jeremy Allen White as the neurotic fine-dining chef Carmy Berzatto with Ayo Edibiri as the whip-smart but inexperienced chef Sydney Adamu, “The Bear” details the chaotic ins and outs of running a restaurant amid personal tragedy. It’s entertaining, beautifully-shot, fast-paced and tense while hiding a glowing undercurrent of warmth between the eccentric cooks of this Chicago restaurant. If you missed it over the summer, the awards-show hype has certainly brought it back on everyone’s must-watch lists.
A good breakfast sandwich is an ideal pair for this show. Why? It’s quick and gets the job done. Meaty and messy, bursting at the seams with flavor. Ultimately, it’s a no-nonsense food that is sure to leave you satiated.
“The Hundred-Foot Journey” (2014)
In this heartwarming underdog movie about a Muslim Indian family who are forced out of their successful restaurant in Mumbai and seek to rebuild their lives in the French countryside, the head chef Hassan Kadam balances delicate French cuisine and hearty Indian cooking. It’s a reminder that home can be packed in a Tupperware box and brought along on whatever hardships lie ahead of you.
This is a bit of an unconventional choice but a food that reminds you of home is a lovely pairing for this movie. Why? College can be rough sometimes, so call up your parents or look up a recipe for your favorite food as a kid. If you have the time and the means to do so, cooking something nostalgic and filling for dinner is as close as a lot of us can get to home during the semester.
“Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (2011)
A documentary focused on the life of 97-year-old Japanese master chef, Jiro Ono, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” follows Ono’s journey to modernize and revolutionize sushi. It lays out his life, limitations and legacy in a way that immediately draws the audience into his former 10-seater restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, and makes you want to book a table and experience this three Michelin starred meal in person.
The chicken gyoza at Trader Joe’s from the frozen food aisle works great with this documentary. Why? While Jiro wouldn’t necessarily appreciate the frozen food meal, as college students we realize that sometimes we have just gotta make do. All things considered, the gyoza can be steamed, pan fried or deep fried and is a delicious entrée that packs in a lot of taste into relatively small bites.
“The Menu” (2022)
This is one of the most exciting movies on this list. While sloppy at times, and certainly darker than anything else that has been mentioned so far, “The Menu” is a treat of a film. Ralph Fiennes, as an exhausted celebrity chef, and Anya Taylor-Joy, as someone with no knowledge of this exclusive food world, have a deeply interesting push-and-pull dynamic at the heart of the film, while Nicholas Hoult as an eccentric culinary fan offers an edgy thread of comedy throughout. In this film, food is a stand-in for multiple things, but the movie never takes itself so seriously that it doesn’t turn back and assess itself as well. This is a strong contender for the best dark comedy of the year and is certainly worth a watch.
The Brookie at Trader Joe’s is as bastardized as food can get, and the shock of that simple combination is what “The Menu” offers up on a silver platter to its audience. This is a great dessert that makes you wonder why these haven’t replaced both cookies and brownies.
“Chef’s Table” (2015-2019)
David Gelb — a USC alum! — has mastered the art of the food documentary. Cinematic classical music over slow-motion shots of the most delectable meals available in the world make “Chef’s Table” an exceptionally watchable television show. Each episode profiles a different chef around the world who is, in their own way, revolutionizing the way we look at food. This is a show that offers an escape into the window of people whose lives are centered around cooking for others, and shows you that the things important to them aren’t much different from what’s important to us.
The food pairing for this show is a Red Thai Curry with the Thai Style Red Curry Sauce at Trader Joe’s. Why? A bowl of this curry laden with vegetables over rice is the definition of comfort. The profile of a chef in the first episode of Volume 3, Jeong Kwan, a Buddhist nun in South Korea, lays out the two most incredible things that food can do: build communities and nourish our bodies. She was flown out to New York City to cook meals for private audiences at the restaurant, Le Bernadin, and returned to South Korea with no ambitions to start her own restaurant, despite no shortage of people wanting her to.
Food can be a source of great personal joy, and food movies are the perfect place to be reminded of this. Get watching and bon appétit!
Correction: A previous version of this article stated the article contained six movie and TV show recommendations. The article contains seven recommendations. The Daily Trojan regrets this error.