I don’t know if I have ever written a book review. Maybe like a book report in like 5th grade. I’m a pretty avid reader when I have the time, but it’s been a while since I’ve put down in word my thoughts about a book. Despite being busy these past few months, I did find some time to sit down and read The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais.
The story follows an Indian family as they move to France after some political troubles in their homeland and end up starting a Indian restaurant “100-feet” away from a renowned classic French restaurant, boasting two Michelin stars. Madame Mallory of Le Saule Pleuruer does everything she can to undermine the nontraditional competition just across the street at Maison Mumbai. Yet, despite her best efforts, Mallory realizes that the son of the Indian family, Hassan Haji, has incredible cooking talent and invites him to study classical French cooking under her watch. The rest of the story line follows the struggles and successes of Hassan as he makes that “100-foot journey” across the street, falls in love and goes to Paris to pursue his dreams and eventually earn himself his own Michelin stars.
What’s interesting is that Richard Morais actually wrote the book with a full intention for his good friend Ismail Merchant to produce the film (Merchant died before this could happen). I actually watched the film (2014) first and fell in love with the story and ordered the book because I couldn’t get enough. I was surprised (and slightly disappointed) to learn that it was not based off a true story. Despite enjoying the two works technically out of order, it was Morais’s end goal to create a film, and I’m honestly torn between deciding which interpretation was better.
The movie had less characters and plays up the love story between Hassan and a fellow chef. Some of the main plot line is changed for whatever reason to create additional love stories (hint: with Madame Mallory) and alters some key scenes that demonstrate the character transformation of Madame Mallory. Without giving away too much, there is one pivotal scene that is added into the movie that I think greatly deepens the plot, in which some of Le Saule Pleureur’s chefs take it upon themselves to vandalize and set fire to Maison Mumbai. Mallory nails the scene when she fires the head chef and saying “You are a chef. I do not pay you to burn things.” #killinit
Morais does a really good job of painting a scene with imagery tapping into all five senses. The book is brimming with food metaphors from “almond shaped eyes” to “a face like an onion bhaji” to “the crowd thickening and congealing”. #seewhatyoudidthere. I came out of both the movie and the book craving everything from naan to french bread pastries to spicy Indian curry.
I loved it and am off to go find some [easy] classic French recipes to try-out in my own kitchen (like an omelette…). If you are a foodie, The Hundred-Foot Journey is certainly the book and/or movie for you.