THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY

NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Grace

Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) explains to French Immigration why he and his family want to live in France: his family had owned a restaurant in Mumbai, but on an election night, there was a riot and their restaurant was set on fire, killing his mother who was the chef. He learned everything about cooking from her and has been trying to teach himself as his Papa moves the family about Europe. He fondly remembers buying sea urchins, the seller exclaiming that he “gets” cooking. Admitting he doesn’t have any proof that he knows how to cook, except to offer a homemade samosa and saying that English produce isn’t good enough, the Kadam family is allowed in.

Papa (Om Puri) is driving the family throughout the French countryside, trying out random vegetable gardens, when their old van finally gives out in the hills above Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, a small village. A young woman passes by, offering to take them to the local mechanic. The family (also brothers Mansur and Mukthar and sisters Mahira and Aisha) push the van into town. Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), the woman, brings them to her apartment and offers a snack- a huge platter of radishes, butter and salt; home baked bread; large, fresh tomatoes; olives she picked and cured herself and little pastries. Delighted, Papa eagerly looks forward to bargaining with the hotel in town, much to Mansur’s dismay.

In the morning, Papa discovers an abandoned restaurant. As he and Hassan are exploring, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) announces they are trespassing. She admits she is not the owner either, but keeping an eye on the property for the owner who is in Paris. Again, Papa wants to bargain with the owner and soon we see the family cleaning up the restaurant to turn it into Maison Mumbai. The family finds out the reason why Madame is so hostile- she owns the restaurant just across the street: Le Saule Pleureur, a one star Michelin restaurant.

Hassan finds mildewed French cookbooks in the kitchen as they prepare for the opening and strikes up a friendship with Marguerite, who he discovers is the sous chef at Madame’s. Madame runs a tight ship, scolding employees for serving limp asparagus, saying food should be passionate. She visits her competition, demanding they turn down their Indian music and studies a menu which she takes with her. On opening day, Papa and Hassan travel to market only to discover Madame has snatched up all the crawfish, mushrooms and everything else in town on their opening night menu. Scrambling to save the day, the family forages the river and forest for the needed ingredients and manages to snag customers with native costumes, Mahira’s smile and forceful behavior.

Madame appeals to the mayor to close Maison Mumbai for various citations, but he appreciates the food too much. Papa turns the tables on Madame and purchases all the ingredients in town for pigeon truffle, one of the restaurant’s renowned dishes. Marguerite tells him that Madame doesn’t interview job applicants, but asks them to prepare an omelet, knowing from one bite, whether or not they have “it." Instead, he offers the pigeon (the recipe stolen with a bribe from Papa from one of the cooks), which she dumps in the trash. This is now war (cue the angry chopping).

Madame tells her head chef, Jean-Pierre that he is a soldier, which he takes too seriously and has friends torch Maison Mumbai. Horrified, she personally scrubs their wall free of graffiti, fires Jean-Pierre and accepts when Hassan asks to make her an omelet, although he has to direct her since he severely burned his hands in the attack. His omelet includes Indian spices, onions, cilantro and spicy peppers. She raves after one bite and humbly admits that chefs must study for years for what he instinctively knows and admits that his pigeon was wonderful too.

After a brief haggle with Papa over salary, Hassan moves across the street (one hundred feet), leaving behind his disappointed younger sister and hesitant older brother (who now has to cook) to polish off his cooking skills with Madame and Marguerite. At the end of one year, Hassan and Le Saule Pleureur has received the much coveted second Michelin star and Marguerite’s controlled anger for she has been working for years to be head chef and also because Hassan will now be courted by many Parisian restaurants. The widowed Madame has clearly warmed to the Kadam family, calling Mahira a beauty, cooing to the younger children and feeding Papa a truffle.

Another year later and Hassan is burnt out. He is much applauded, but he has taken up drinking (wine is considered strange in Indian culture). One night before Michelin stars are announced, he scolds a sous chef for ruining a sea urchin dish and finds a fellow Indian co-worker enjoying food send from home. Soon he is taking a train back to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, where he tells Marguerite that he has a business proposition for her. Secretly cooking sea urchin for Bastille Day, they consummate their relationship before Madame (who is now Papa's "almost" girlfriend) introduces them as the new partners of her restaurant to her guests and the Kadam family, who didn’t even know that Hassan was back in town. When Hassan’s phone rings, Papa sees that the call was from Michelin and implores him to call them back, but Hassan insists that he and Marguerite will get a third star next year at Le Saule Pleureur.


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