We're Fascinated By Chefs, Restaurants
April 4, 2007
By GREG MORAGO, Courant Staff Writer
Fire up the convection oven, break out the gourmet sea salt and ready that basting wand. Chefs - their restaurants, their profession, their lives - are cooking up a storm in pop culture. In a tasty bit of culinary synchronicity, the lives of professional chefs and restaurant themes are playing out in movies, on television and in print.
The recent publication of "Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, from Cocaine to Foie Gras," a memoir by chef Jeff Henderson, was quickly followed by news that actor Will Smith has optioned the rights to star in a film about the one-time coke dealer who learned the joys of cooking in prison and went on to become the executive chef at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The same team that made "Pursuit of Happyness" (which earned Smith an Oscar nomination) will produce the film version of this redemption memoir.
A couple of other restaurant- and chef-related films, all fiction, are also coming to a cineplex near you. In "No Reservations," due out in July, Catherine Zeta-Jones stars as a prickly master chef who takes in her young niece and eventually finds her cookbook for life. Kids may have trouble spelling it and even pronouncing it, but they'll probably eat up the Pixar animated adventure "Ratatouille," due out in June, about a rat named Remy who lives in a famous Paris bistro and dreams of becoming a great chef. Having enjoyed good buzz at the Sundance Film Festival, "Waitress," due out next month, stars Keri Russell as a small-town woman who is an accomplished pie maker and works at a local diner.
TV is firing up a lot of chef excitement. Bravo has ordered a third season of "Top Chef" (it happens to be the top-rated food series on cable television). A third season of Fox's "Hell's Kitchen," starring the ill-tempered British chef Gordon Ramsay, starts in June (Ramsay also recently opened his first U.S. restaurant in New York). Not to be outdone, Food Network is readying its third season of the reality competition show, "The Next Food Network Star," starting in June. Food Network also is launching a new reality show to find its next Iron Chef; the show, tentatively named "The Next Iron Chef in America," will bow in the fall. The cable network also will be home for another competition show, "America's Best Recipe," which is scheduled for early 2008.
Besides Henderson's "Cooked," two other books about real-life chefs are also enjoying the spotlight. "Julia Child," author Laura Shapiro's well-reviewed biography of the legendary "French Chef," is sure to find a home in the library of any Child fan. "Alice Waters and Chez Panisse," Thomas McNamee's biography, will surely excite food lovers who have placed Waters in culinary goddess status.
And, finally, for those food extremists out there, "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" is now out on DVD. The chef/author's culinary meanderings (eight episodes of his show on four discs) will take you to places few self-proclaimed gourmands would dare to venture.