The Handbook
The Handbook

The gritty inner workings of kitchen and hospitality life isn’t for the faint of heart. Expect laborious long hours, intense heat and orders being barked at you, but paired with all of this stress is a thrill and passion that keeps you going.

If you want to relive your waitressing days or have always wondered what life was really like inside a heated, restaurant kitchen, these 12 films will sure satisfy your foodie needs.

Chef, 2014

Life in the hospitality industry is never easy. When applying for chef, waitressing or mixologist roles, you’re expected to devote every hour to the job, following menial orders and still put on a smile when face to face with a littering of rude customers. One chef who had had enough of this though was Carl Casper, who quit his job at a trendy Los Angeles resto after a disagreement with a food critic. 

Created and starring Jon Favreau, Chef is one of the most honest depictions of the hospitality industry. We see the brutal long hours, the gritty kitchen banter and the struggles that come with it all. Carl decides he’s had enough of following the rules and sets up a food truck serving the dishes he is actually passionate about, serving Cuban-style sandwiches and yuca fries to hungry travellers, tourists and locals across the country.

Julie & Julia, 2009

Any film with the loveable and iconic Meryl Streep in it has a seal of approval from us. 

In an age where food blogs were becoming ever more popular, New Yorker Julie Powell, played by Amy Adams, sets out on a journey to remake every recipe from Julia Childs’ heroic cookery book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. 

The narrative flicks back and forth between modern day and the era of Julia Childs’ (Meryl Streep) journey and we get a chance to see just how Childs managed to thrust herself into the French cuisine, shed loads of butter and bread in tow.

Waitress, 2007

So often do we see a depiction of hospitality life from a chef’s perspective, but the 2007 hit film Waitress reveals all on just how the front of house staff experience the workforce. 

Set at a small time town diner, Jenna (Keri Russell) is your average diner girl. Pinned up in the typical diner-style dress, her desserts are infamous amongst the town folk, but her service smile is far from a reality. Jenna is stuck in a torturous marriage and soon finds out she’s pregnant. A pie contest with a grand ol’ monetary prize might just be her only way out… 

Good Burger, 1997

If you’re looking for a film that’s a bucket full of laughs and doesn’t take itself too seriously, you’ll want to watch Brian Robbins’ Good Burger. 

When a competitor opens up shop across the road you know you’re in for some bad luck, but could a mighty new burger sauce help save Dexter and Ed save their fast food joint? Expect laughs, cries and outright foolishness to follow as you tune into Good Burger.

Ratatouille, 2007

Ratatouille, the film that made us all feel a little bit sorry for the pests, is the ultimate film that shows the competitive nature and inner workings of kitchen life. 

Disney Pixar’s Ratatouille follows the story of a home cook who’s determined to show his friends the true brilliance of food techniques and pairings, the only problem is that he’s a rat. Remy, a loveable rat, has always dreamt of becoming a famous French chef and his dreams are almost reachable when he meets Alfredo Linguini, a clumsy garbage boy hoping to achieve greatness in one of Paris’s best restaurants.

Chocolat, 2000

Fall back in love with a young, dreamy Johnny Depp as he stars in Chocolat, a film centred around the small town chocolate shop. 

A young and curious Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter move to a small French neighbourhood to open up a quaint, independent chocolate shop, just across from the church. The only issue is that she decides to open it just as lent begins. Can she tempt the locals in with her chocolatey treats?

Eat Drink Man Woman, 1994

We’re stepping away from the restaurant scene and into a home kitchen in Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman. Centring around Master Chef Chu and his three unmarried daughters, all of whom still live at home, the film displays the elaborate and complex preparation and dining of their Sunday lunch rituals. These moments bond the family together through the ups and downs of daily life.

Big Night, 1996

Opening up a restaurant is never easy and often the ability to stay open is a test of time. Big Night follows two immigrant brothers chef Primo and Secondo, who open up a small Italian restaurant, Paradise in New Jersey. Hoping to do everything in their power not to close up shop, they set out to make the finest, fanciest and more elaborate dinner for a famous Italian-American bandleader who is dining at the restaurant one night. The timpano is quite something…

Burnt, 2015

Bradley Cooper fans might remember this one, but if you fancy seeing Cooper flaunt his stuff in chef whites, Burnt is for you. 

Cooper plays Adam Jones, a chef who has fallen on hard times. In an attempt to get his life back on track, Adam moves to London to work for his former maitre d’ and sees himself heading one of London’s leading fine dining restaurants. The only question left posed is will he achieve his goal of earning a third Michelin star?

The Hundred-Foot Journey, 2014

With France at the epicentre of culinary life, The Hundred-Foot Journey is another film that centres around restaurant life in France. 

Hassan Kadam, played by Manish Dayal, and his family move to a humble French village and open up an Indian restaurant. Hassan is a much celebrated chef and his culinary skills guide him on his foodie journey, until Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) decides otherwise. 

Owning the only other restaurant in the village, Madame Mallory is frustrated by the attempts of Hussan and his family, until she decides to bring his skills into her restaurant…

No Reservations, 2007

Despite being at the top of her game, Kate’s whole life is unsettled when her sister passes away and her niece moves in with her. The place that was once her safe haven is also about to be thrusted upside down as a new Italian-trained chef waltzes through the kitchen doors…

Waiting…, 2005

Ryan Reynolds and Justin Long star in Waiting…, a film centred around the fun, games and pranks of waitering life. The pair live and work together, and it seems as if nothing could break this powerful, chirpy bond until Dean (Justin Long) is offered a managerial promotion. Although it’s generally got pretty bad critic reviews, it’s quite a fun watch to see Long and Reynolds jovial friendship and the inner workings of waitering life.

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