Movie reviews: Chef’s Table, On the Way to School, A Princess for Christmas

Since summer started and I’m not working at school, I have been watching some movies and television shows. It’s admittedly hard to find anything good. By good I mean well-produced, written, and acted, (quality); and good in the sense of nothing offensive, gory, profane or blasphemous (morality).

I would like to recommend three items. The first is called Chef’s Table and it’s on Netflix and Youtube. The blurb says-

Chef’s Table goes inside the lives and kitchens of six of the world’s most renowned international chefs. Each episode focuses on a single chef and their unique look at their lives, talents and passion from their piece of culinary heaven.

The chefs are: Ben Shewry, Niki Nakayama, Francis Mallmann, Dan Barber, Massimo Bottura, and Magnus Nilsson.

It has a 9.0 rating on Internet Movie Database (

I haven’t seen all 6 segments, only 5. I’m looking forward to that sixth one, it is about Magnus Nillson. You will know him from Chopped and other cooking shows. I enjoyed them OK but the first one I watched, the one about Massimo Bottura of Modena Italy, astounded and moved me. Maybe because I connect with Italian food, or that I enjoyed the scenes in Italy, or just that his personality and that of his wife fit together so well and I loved seeing their marriage, but the segment was brilliant.

Probably it was because of Massimo’s creativity on the food. Italians are very traditional and do not like change in their foods or designs. I remember when we were treated to a personal tour of Ubaldo Grazia’s pottery (majolica) factory in Deruta (Perugia), he said his family had been in that location developing artistic dishware for 500 years. There are traditional patterns that the Italians like and they do not like deviating from them. He had hired some art students from the Rhode Island School of Design to paint some variations of the old patterns and he was encountering a lot of resistance.

Traditional Grazia designs on left, modern on right

Bottura said the same thing in the segment. Tortellini soup is tortellini soup- it’s supposed to have a broth and a ratio of ten tortellinis per bowl. Italians always want pasta and more of it. Instead, he envisioned tortellini soup this way

His own tortellini evolved provocatively with a version he served at Francescana in 1998. Six dumplings were arranged on broth set with agar gelatin. A pour of hot broth melted the gelatin, so the tortellini actually moved, “walking on broth … “

I tried to find a photo of it but could not. The concept for the dish is funny, it’s witty and a pointed joke toward the Modenese as well. For all the world it looks like a solemn lineup of soldiers proudly marching to their death. Bottura’s cuisine is inventive and witty. In one part, he explained that everyone likes the crunchy-burned corner of the lasagna dish. So he made an entire dish called

… La Dame et son Chevalier (The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna). It is made of four triangles — two Parmigiano-Reggiano wafers, two of spinach pasta (first boiled and then baked until crisp) — perched over spoonfuls of ragu and bechamel, with a long stripe of tomato terrine running down the side.

It looks nothing like traditional lasagna but evokes all the heart and love one remembers from Nonnie’s lasagna pan, and hoping that you’d be the one this time to get the crunch corner. It’s essence of lasagna. I don’t know how he does it. But I’m totally with Massimo on all his dishes.

The second item I recommend is a movie, also on Netflix. It is called “On the Way to School” and it is a 2013 film. I mention this because there is another movie with the same title, issued in 2008. They are not the same thing. The blurb says

Jackson, the Kenyan; Carlito, the Argentinian; Zahira, the Moroccan; Samuel, the Indian… four children who live light years away from each other and who have never met but who have a common point : they have to cover tremendously long distances to reach their school. On foot, on horseback or in a wheelchair, but all with an extraordinary determination…

The documentary is filmed in National Geographic style, with sweeping vistas which include the landscape itself as a character. The film trails each child as they make their way over harsh terrain each day (or in the case of the Moroccan girls, each week to boarding school) walking, jogging, in one case, hiding from a growling lion, traipsing over the Atlas Mountains or scurrying across elephant infested African bush. The kids walk for hours, cheerfully, so they can have an opportunity to advance from their little village and make something of themselves. The children have dreams and hopes, and the movie in its quiet way, presents those to us, and completes it with interviews at the end.

These children are not high school seniors aged 18, or 20 year old youths attending a higher education- these are kids, 6 years old or 9 or 10. Maybe I gravitated to the film because I work in education and know the entitlement some American children or their parents feel. It was poignant when the teacher in the African segment started the school day by looking at his large class, asking if anyone was absent, and noting all present, thanked God that they all made it “with no accidents.” Meaning, no one got trampled by elephants, eaten by a lion, or fell down a ravine.

Watch it to be inspired, to see some of the world’s harshest and most beautiful terrain, or to show your surly, entitled tween or teen. It’s all good.

The third movie is a change of pace from the previous two. It’s mindless, sappy, beautiful to look at (because, castle) and a total chick flick. If you want to watch something just plain nice, here it is.

A Princess for Christmas, on Netflix.

See? TOTAL chick flick. From Hallmark.

This is a fantasy, fairy tale story of two orphaned kids and their struggling young aunt who now takes care of them. It turns out that her dead brother-in-law was son of a Duke in fictitious Castlebury (actually filmed in Romania) whom the Duke cut off when he married a gal from Buffalo. Turns out, the Duke is older now and regrets not seeing his dukelings, and sends his butler, Paisley Winterbottom, to fetch them. Turns out, the aunt (Jules) just lost her antique store job and is at a loss with what to do with her shoplifting nephew who is about to turn bad if something isn’t done. Turns out, the Duke has another son….

It has a happy ending. With a rose-laden carriage.

I’m not giving anything away here. You knew where this was going the minute
Paisley Winterbottom showed up in Buffalo.

And for all you naysayers, hey, it can happen. As a matter of fact, it just did:

I should also mention that I finally watched 2010’s Despicable Me. I waited all this time to see it free but it never was free nor was it ever on my streaming Netflix, so I caved and rented it it streaming from Amazon. I liked it very much! It ranks with Cars, Toy Story and Up as my animated favorites.

I hope you enjoy these. Please feel free to share your favorites as well. I’m always looking for GOOD entertainment.


One thought on “Movie reviews: Chef’s Table, On the Way to School, A Princess for Christmas

  1. Ooooo, so grateful for these suggestions! Thank you! Thank you! I will totally watch the school one with my boys after a hot summer day in their cush life and, yes! A lovely princess movie! I was just saying today after printing out Elsa coloring pages for my daughters, “Ok, can we please move on from Frozen?!?!” A friend was over and she replied, “Oh, there is a Frozen 2 coming.”

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