“The Hundred-Foot Journey” by Richard C. Morais is neither the nth culinary-love book nor a travel narrative. It’s a vivid story about life, love and the collision between two cultures and two cuisines as well as between old traditions and innovations.
Everything starts in Mumbai with Hassan’s grandparents. They are enterprising and initiative owners of a small and modest restaurant in the city. The passion for cooking is rooted in the whole family and is inherited by all its members. Hassan himself adopts culinary skills from his Mom who, unfortunately, dies when their restaurant is set on fire one evening. That circumstance forces his father to decide to move his family from India and restart their life far away from their homeland. Thus the Kadam family’s long journey begins from India to France through the UK.
Their first stop is in London where they stay for a short period of time, actually, until Hassan messes up with an older girl than him which is a conscious or unconscious motive for the whole family to leave for France. Three Mercedes with the Kadam family members travel almost whole Europe for two months crossing Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Tuscany in Italy and Switzerland. When they enter France they reach the tiny Town of Light (Lumière) hugged somewhere there in the French Alps where Hassan’s Dad falls in love with a house at first sight and buys it impulsively. His idea is to open an Indian restaurant and to renew the family’s restaurant business.
So far, so good. But, unfortunately, for their bad luck, their new restaurant is only a three-metre (or one-hundred) journey from a well known classical French restaurant run by Madame Mallory. That short distance, as a matter of fact, opens a gap between the two cultures and leads to a great number of funny happenings between the natives and the newcomers. Finally, that gap is bridged and Hassan begins to work at Madame Mallory’s restaurant. This is a new era for them both. The dishes of the old-fashioned restaurant are filled up with the fragrances and spices of India while the Indian lad absorbs and adopts new culinary skills and knowledge in the French cuisine. And thus a day after day, a year, after year until Hassan reaches a decision to make a bigger step by moving to Paris. His decision is hard for all sides but he is determined to follow his fate.
The City of Love welcomes him warmly. He runs into the Haute couture culinary world and that of the Cubist cuisine. Young Hassan opens a restaurant of his own and practises all he’s learned from Madame Mallory never forgetting his Indian roots. In the end he manages to obtain the so long desired three Michelin stars for his own restaurant and is declared the first foreigner who becomes a respected Michelin-starred French chef.
As for the movie, it’s produced by Steven Spielberg with Oprah Winfrey. According to me, it’s a bit different. The plot and the whole idea are the same to some extent but frankly speaking, the way of presenting them is not what I expected from the movie having in mind that I had read the book first. Obviously, it’s a common and usual practice in filmmaking as I had the same opinion about another book (“Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes) and the movie of the same name. Anyway… Back to The Hundred-Foot film. It cunningly depicts the collision between the Indian and French cultures, the Indian spirit and French traditions as well as the main characters make any scene alive with their brilliant performance, charm and beauty. If you want to cook a delicious and spicy dish from Indian-French humour don’t miss The Hundred-Foot Journey. 😉