Dishy leads, cliched plot

Nicholas Tse (far left) and Jung Yung Hwa play rival cooks in Cook Up A Storm.
Nicholas Tse (far left) and Jung Yung Hwa play rival cooks in Cook Up A Storm.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE



96 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2.5/5 stars

The story: An international culinary competition becomes a battleground for two rival cooks - a Cantonese street cook (Nicholas Tse) and a French-trained Michelin-starred chef (Jung Yung Hwa). Their rivalry takes an unexpected turn when they discover a common foe and combine their skills in a fusion of East and West.

Hong Kong actor Nicholas Tse has been busy reinventing himself as a major foodie and cook recently, so it was only a matter of time before he did a food movie.

Following the immense success of his cooking travelogue television series Chef Nic, as well as the opening of his cookie stores in Hong Kong, this movie - where he is culinary consultant as well as leading man - feels like the next natural step for him to take.

In the film, he certainly looks like he knows what he is doing in the kitchen.

Whether it has to do with good acting or just clever editing, he looks like a total professional with every chop of the knife and flick of the wrist as he whips up everything from ginger beef to fish porridge.

So serious is he about cooking now that he leaves all of the heart-throb close-ups to his handsome co-star Jung Yung Hwa of South Korean pop boyband CNBlue fame.

Meanwhile, he dons only greasy T-shirts and awful-looking headbands.

All of the food here looks fantastic too - in one scene where the two protagonists cook fish against a completely black background, it looks like it came straight out of Netflix's acclaimed chef and food documentary series Chef's Table.

Unfortunately, the story is as cliched as the food porn is great.

Taking cues from every other food movie that came before it, the film portrays the age-old clash between newfangled and/or pretentious cooking, and simple yet comforting fare.

Nothing new is said in this debate and there is no suspense at all as to which side wins in the end.

As with films, the best food is about the special emotions and memories that are associated with it.

While this film is sincere and contains all the right ingredients, it lacks that extra oomph to make it memorable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Dishy leads, cliched plot'. Print Edition | Subscribe