IN THE LIMELIGHT Movies

A delectable recipe for success

A still from smash-hit TV series ‘The Bear’

A still from smash-hit TV series ‘The Bear’ | Photo Credit: FX on Hulu

What constitutes a great culinary show? For decades, the genre — a documentary, a reality competition, or a fictional drama — has captured the attention of millions of viewers. Be it the sight of an unheralded underdog winning the title after months of being invested in their personal and professional lives, or getting engrossed into a chef’s deep-dive into the history and culture of a dish in a docu-series, food as a topic has continued to comfort, fascinate and invigorate audiences, especially during and post the pandemic.

Take the case of MasterChef, which has grown from being a little-known quest to find the most talented amateur chefs in the U.K. and Australia, to a global phenomenon spawning spin-offs across continents. The show not only made household names out of the likes of judges George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan — catapulting them to overnight fame as television stars — but also endeared the contestants and their cooking techniques to viewers irrespective of their location. Suddenly, kitchens back home were abuzz with terms like “sous vide” and “deconstruct” and ingredients imported from Australia surged in popularity at grocery chains globally.

Food: a common factor

A more diverse line-up of judges (and participants) has taken over the mantle recently, but we continue to relate to their backgrounds, challenges and inspirations, with the love for food being the common bonding factor.

Then, there are titles that speak to our cultural, historical and sociological interest in food, such as several of the late great Anthony Bourdain’s food/ travel projects, or more recently, restaurant chain Momofuku founder David Chang’s riveting Ugly Delicious. With each episode showcasing one dish or a concept, Chang globe trots his way around regions, exploring their association with food, and how it influences people.

With several celebrity cameos to boot, Chang whets appetites showcasing both popular and never-seen-before culinary dishes, and also succeeds in taking an egalitarian approach to cuisine, as highlighted in this Vulture review.

Escapist fare of the best kind

There are other titles that tick the boxes when it comes to providing relatable yet escapist fare in the genre. Chef's Table, Salt Fat Acid Heat, Street Food and The Chef Show are some popular binge-watches, while Midnight Diner, an anthology on Netflix, is centred around a late-night diner called Meshiya in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, its mysterious owner and his patrons. Developing a cult following over time, the manga-based series is yet another unique addition to the growing array of hit productions themed around food.

Surprisingly though, the genre finds very few fictional films or shows; Bradley Cooper’s Burnt, Jon Favreau’s 2014 smash-hit Chef, Pixar’s gorgeous ode to Parisian cuisine in Ratatouille, and Anwar Rasheed’s heart-warming Malayalam drama Ustad Hotel are some of the stand-outs, while K-Dramas like Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha dabble in it from time to time.

However, in what is making a case to be arguably the best television show of 2022, comes The Bear — a hypnotic, anxiety attack of a drama if there ever was one — which portrays the inside of a modern-day restaurant kitchen with a stunning cast of breakout stars.

A palpable viewing experience

Helmed by Ramy creator Christopher Storer, episodes are one stress bomb after the other, as we follow the main protagonist Carmy (Jeremy Allen White of Shameless), a James Beard Award-winning chef from Noma, who has now come home to Chicago to run his family's Italian beef sandwich shop… after his brother’s suicide.

An immersive and palpable viewing experience like no other, The Bear rides on the strength of its quicksilver editing that captures all the madness and meltdowns of a commercial kitchen; julienned carrots, braised beef, angry tears, shouting matches, et al. An incredible ensemble of actors hugely complements the set-pieces — most of which are staged in a cramped setting — from which we are unable to tear our eyes off. “Thank you, chef” becomes the kitchen’s motto; a fitting catchphrase indeed as the narrative slaloms towards a heady finale.

Ultimately, culinary shows will always continue to be relatable and engaging, be it connecting emotionally with a small-town homemaker’s food journey in a different country, or falling in love with cooking after watching someone whip up a delectable dish on-screen. A true-blue recipe for success!

THE GIST
For decades, the genre — be it a documentary, a reality competition, or a fictional drama — has captured the attention of millions of viewers.
There are several culinary shows which have titles that speak to our cultural, historical and sociological interest in food, such as several of the late great Anthony Bourdain’s food/ travel projects.
There are other titles that tick the boxes when it comes to providing relatable yet escapist fare in the genre such as Chef's Table, Salt Fat Acid Heat, Street Food and The Chef Show.


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2022 12:25:47 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/a-delectable-recipe-for-success/article65694169.ece