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Serving up the food biz with a touch of fiction

It's a great summer to go to the movies -- especially if you like food. There's the film "Waitress," detailing the way a young woman works out the problems in her life by baking gorgeous pies.

And soon to open is "No Reservations," a remake of the German film "Mostly Martha," about the loves and troubles of a female chef. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the chef. I've not seen the film, but I wonder about the casting -- the publicity shots I've seen don't show her even slightly rumpled.

Lastly, there's "Ratatouille," now playing at a theater near you. It's a Pixar production, stunningly animated, about a young rat named Remy who ends up in a tony French restaurant cooking extraordinary food (don't ask) and, yes, you can expect to see recipes for ratatouille to appear in every publication but the Bible for the next few months.

The dish, pronounced "rat-ta-TOO-ee," as the ads helpfully advise, is a Provencal combination of eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini garlic and herbs simmered in olive oil, generally resembling a kind of soupy melange. In the film it's gloriously composed in layers, a vertical presentation a la the fancy meals of the '90s.

But this is supposed to be a fancy restaurant, so we hereby grant the moviemakers poetic license. And anyway, what else could we expect, since Pixar had a celebrity chef like Thomas Keller of the French Laundry as consultant? (Another credit mentions three-star Tallievent in Paris.) That means that most of the kitchen details are not only funny, they're accurate.

But the role of the restaurant critic (Peter O'Toole) is the villain! Ahem, I say, ahem!

Here's how the life of a wondrously named Anton Ego differs from the life of the restaurant critic I know best (Pixar can relax -- I'm not planning any legal action):

In the film, Ego enters the restaurant the day before his official visit to advise the quaking staff that he's coming, and the food just better be good. Oh my. How totally unprofessional!

And, I might add, what happened to anonymity?

Ego uses a typewriter. An old Underwood, I think. Has the man no access to a computer?

Maybe the guy just likes antiques. Ego lives in great digs. And he has a servant, too. A butler, by crikey!

What can I tell you? This is not typical of the restaurant critic genre.

And now for the most serious complaint. Are you ready for this?

Ego is thin. Painfully thin! (He says that's because if he gets a mouthful of food he doesn't like, he just spits it out. Which seems, well, unpleasant.)

But I don't care about that -- I envy this guy.

He can keep his antiques; he can keep his butler. The only thing I want is that mesomorphic build.

Sigh. If only.


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