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In the kitchen with Helen Mirren: From Soup to Showtime Grill

Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory in "The Hundred-Foot Journey"
Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory in "The Hundred-Foot Journey"
Dreamworks Pictures

In her latest film, THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY, Helen Mirren plays the stoic and hauteur Madame Mallory, proud owner of the well-respected Michelin star holding restaurant Le Saule Pleureur. A true lover of French cuisine with an inscrutable palate, Madame Mallory knows food and its preparation. But what about Helen Mirren?

Admitting her love of milk chocolate as being “incredibly memorable” for her, tapping into her childhood, Mirren wistfully recalls, “I didn’t eat chocolate at all because I grew up in England after the Second World War. We didn’t have chocolate until I was about 7. I had never ever tasted chocolate. So my first taste of chocolate was pretty amazing. And I’ve never quite forgot. It wasn’t even the taste of it; it was the smell of it, funny enough. The smell of it. You don’t think chocolate has a smell but it does.” But as man, or woman, doesn’t live by chocolate alone, ranking high among Mirren’s favorite foods is perishky. One of her mother’s signature dishes, perishky is basically a cabbage pie. “[W]henever I have a perishky that always reminds me of my mother; although my mother was very British, East end London. My dad was the Russian. But she obviously learned to cook Russian food.”

However, “the one food I absolutely crave if I’ve been away from England is not roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It’s an Indian dish. . . [when] my husband [Taylor Hackford] and I go home from abroad, and we did just less than a week ago, the first restaurant we go to is an Indian food restaurant. We always go, religiously, and we go to the same restaurant. . .and we have our Indian meal. It’s always fantastic. Sometimes we go there if we’re leaving early the next day; we go there and we get a taker, and we put it our suitcases. [laughing] We do!” Also high on her list is steak tartare. “ I happen to love steak tartare, a really good steak tartare which I know a very lot of Americans [find] alarming eating raw meat with a raw egg on the top. But I love steak tartare.” (Note: The Beverly Wilshire Hotel has a delicious steak tartare.)

When it comes to her own culinary skills, two things rank high for this Dame. The first, soup. “I love making soup because soup is an endlessly changeable thing. You can put anything in it. It’s constantly changing. So, I do like making soups. Actually I like eating soups, too.” Her favorite? “I love french onion soup. If it’s done the proper original French way with French bread, French Gruyere on the top. So good. I’d go a long way for a very very good French onion soup.”

Yet nothing tops her affection and appreciation for Ronco pitchman Ron Popeil and his Showtime Grill. Describing it as “genius” and “my great cooking secret”, for Mirren “My Showtime Grill that I bought from watching Ron Popeil on the television. . .It’s fantastic! You cannot go wrong. You.Can.Not.Go.Wrong. It’s the most wonderful, wonderful thing. . . My chicken is amaaazing! And if I’m having a dinner party I don’t tell them about Showtime Grill. I just say, ‘Yes, I know. I can cook chicken particularly well. It’s my forte.’.”

Declaring Ron Popeil “a godsend”, one wonders about her thoughts on his other culinary products. Like Ginsu knives. Avowing her Showtime Grill “better than the Ginsu knives”, Mirren laughingly notes, “You can go wrong with the Ginsu knives. You can kill your husband with the Ginsu knives.”

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY is on theatre menus nationwide August 8, 2014.

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