We'll find out this month whether the just-released film Julie & Julia will spark renewed interest in traditional French cooking, particularly among time-starved American home cooks. But this Julia Child (plus Julia-Child-wannabe) biopic should at minimum encourage the consumption of classic French dishes in restaurants. Why? Because seeing this movie is guaranteed to make anyone's mouth water for them. That's why we think many full-service operators should list a couple of traditional French-themed specials on their menus right away.
In addition to being all about great food, Julie & Julia has a lot going for it from the restaurant owner's point of view. For one, it's targeted at that portion of the moviegoing crowd most likely to actually dine away from home: adults with disposable income. That's something you couldn't say about the last major picture about food and cooking, Ratatouille. And this demographic doesn't have much to pick from in the rest of the youth-oriented films that make up most of this year's crop of late summer movies. The multiplex screens mainly have been showing kid-friendly cartoons (Up, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs; G-Force); teen fare (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra); gross-out humor fests (The Hangover; Bruno; Year One); and action thrillers like Wolverine and Transformer.
Also, there's plenty of marketing muscle behind Julie & Julia, courtesy of Sony Pictures. It's a comedy-drama with a lot of laughs, so it's not too arty or serious. Best of all, the film has big stars. The reigning queen of Hollywood leading ladies, Meryl Streep, plays Julia Child. Streep has won two Academy Awards and holds the record for lifetime nominations with 15. Two-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams is Julie, a down-in-the-dumps food blogger who attempts to cook all 524 recipes from Child's seminal Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 within a single calendar year.
Director Nora Ephron has proven chops, too. She wrote and directed Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. She wrote Julia & Julie as well, weaving together two books — Child's autobiography of her ex-pat days in Paris, My Life in France; and Powell's Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment. Both are true stories, although Child and Powell never met in real life.
The dual-track movie harkens back to a time when learning how to cook, especially learning how to cook French food, was a huge deal. And it's also of the present, a time when few know how to cook, fewer still have the time to do so, and yet all things related to food have never been trendier. Sad to say, cooking today has become something one would go see a movie about, or read blogs about, rather than do.
Which is where full-service operators come in. The movie does all the heavy lifting necessary to make your customers want to order “Gateau de Crepes a la Florentine” or even a simple “Bouef Bourguignon.” Where are people going to find this kind of food today? All you have to do is put it on the menu.
How? Just open your copy of Julia 1 for ideas. It's all there.