The God of Cookery
|The God of Cookery|
Hong Kong film poster
|Directed by||Stephen Chow
|Written by||Stephen Chow
|Based on||Iron Chef|
|Edited by||Cheung Ka-Fai|
|Distributed by||Hong Kong:
CN Entertainment (DVD)
|The God of Cookery|
|Literal meaning||Food God|
The God of Cookery (Chinese: 食神) is a 1996 Hong Kong comedy film directed by Hong Kong comedian, actor and director, Stephen Chow, best known in the West for his films Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. This is known to be Chow's first film to utilize deep and sometimes dark themes while retaining his signature nonsensical style.
Stephen Chow (the Chinese characters used for Chow's name in the movie are different from Chow's actual name), is a corrupt celebrity chef who secretly knows very little about cooking, runs a successful business empire, and is willing to hawk any product for a price. Arrogant and cocky, Chow is dubbed the "God of Cookery" and appears as a judge for culinary competitions rigged to make him look good.
Bull Tong (Vincent Kuk), posing as an understudy and conspiring with Chow's business partner (Ng Man Tat) to overthrow him, exposes Chow as a fraud during the opening ceremony of Chow's 50th restaurant. Bull is declared the new "God of Cookery" and takes over Chow's corrupt empire. Ruined, Chow lives on the streets in an area known as Temple Street. There, he orders a bowl of "Assorted Noodles" from disfigured and uncouth food cart owner Turkey (Karen Mok), and criticizes it for its lack of taste, terrible preparation, and unsanitary ingredients. During a heated exchange, Chow demands respect and reveals himself to be the fallen "God of Cookery", but then begs her for some money. Thugs beat him for his panhandling, but Turkey orders them away, taking pity on Chow and giving him a bowl of barbecue pork on rice. Chow is moved and declares it delicious.
Turkey and her rival street vendor, Goosehead (Lee Siu-Kei), conduct gang warfare to see which vendor can sell the two best-selling dishes: beef balls and "pissing" shrimp. Chow manages to unite the two rival vendors by combining the two dishes into a new dish, "Pissing Beef Balls", which the three of them could sell together. It becomes a huge success, and the vendors convince Chow to enroll in a culinary school in order to reclaim the title he lost, but not before he discovers that Turkey idolized Chow as the "God of Cookery", and received her scarred appearance after fighting a local gang leader who ruined her poster of Chow.
The success of the "Pissing Beef Balls" alarms Bull, the new "God of Cookery", who arranges for Chow to be assassinated on the way to culinary school. While searching for the school, Chow finds that Turkey has followed him, asking him to complete a drawing of a romantic heart for her as a souvenir for her to remember him by. Knowing she is in love with him, Chow callously rebuffs her. Turkey reminds him of all she did for him, including her injuries, but Chow retorts that he never asked for her to do those things for him. As he tells her he can never love her, Turkey sees the approaching assassin and is shot in the face, taking the bullet for him. Chow, also presumed dead, disappears.
One month later, Bull enters the "God of Cookery" competition (a parody of Iron Chef) as the heavy favorite to retain the title. Chow arrives at the competition at the last minute, and reveals to Tong what had happened: Chow escaped the assassin's second bullet, and found his way to a Shaolin monastery, where head monk Wet Dream (a spoof on the Chinese word for nocturnal spermatorrhea) nursed him back to health. However, Wet Dream would not allow Chow to leave the temple until he was well-versed in the ways of the Shaolin arts, a point made moot when it is revealed the culinary school he was going to attend was, in fact, the temple's kitchen—the same kitchen Bull had trained at for 10 years, but subsequently dropped out of. While training, Chow continually mourned for Turkey, and was overcome with grief and remorse over his careless treatment of her. The depth of his feeling, which caused his hair to grow white, convinced Wet Dream to allow him his departure from the monastery.
The competition between Chow and Tong begins in earnest, with the two attempting to make identical "Buddha Jumping Wall" dishes. Each chef tries to sabotage the other's dish in a comedic wuxia fashion by attacking the other using their ingredients and kitchen implements, but Tong prevails when Chow's ex-business partner makes Chow's container explode with a bomb. With few materials and little time remaining, Chow prepares "Sorrowful Rice", a simple dish of barbecue pork rice, the same dish Turkey first gave to him while he was living on the streets. Although "Sorrowful Rice" is the better dish, Tong had already blackmailed the judge (Nancy Sit) into rigging the contest. As Bull is fraudulently crowned the winner, Chow remarks that there is no one "God of Cookery" and that any person who cooks with heart can be the "God of Cookery". In an act of divine intervention, the Imperial Court of Heaven descends upon the competition and reveal that in another life, Chow was a heavenly assistant to the Kitchen God, before being sent to Earth to live as a human as punishment for revealing culinary secrets to mankind. Moved by his sorrow and his humbleness, they forgive him. They then transform Chow's former business partner into a form befitting his treachery: a bulldog, and leave a gaping hole on Bull Tong's chest, possibly symbolizing his heartlessness (whether he is killed by this is never revealed).
After the competition, Chow celebrates Christmas with his vendor friends in Temple Street, where Goosehead reveals that Turkey survived the assassination. She caught the bullet meant for Chow with her gold-plated teeth and a dentist reconstructed her dental work and even threw in a free plastic surgery on her face, making her pretty again. As she appears before him and asks how she looks, Chow responds by throwing her the completed drawing of two arrow-pierced hearts.
- Stephen Chow as 'Stephen Chow' (史提芬周 Sitaifan Chow)
- Karen Mok as Turkey (火雞, Fo Gai) / Guanyin
- Vincent Kok as Bull Tong (唐牛, Tong Ngau)
- Ng Man-tat as Uncle
- Lee Siu-Kei as Goosehead (鵝頭, Ngo Tau)
- Tats Lau as Wet Dream (夢遺, Mung Wai)
- Christy Chung as the girl in the dream sequence (cameo)
- Nancy Sit as herself (cameo)
- Lee Kin-yan as the nose-picking transvestite (cameo)
- Law Kar-ying as competition host
- Stephen Au
- Lam Suet
- Tin Kai-Man
- Kingdom Yuen
- The scene in which Stephen Chow declares, "I don't mean to show other I'm capable. I just want to tell others that I can get back what I have lost." is a homage to Chow Yun-fat and A Better Tomorrow.
- Another reference to A Better Tomorrow immediately follows when Stephen Chow lights his cigar using a Hong Kong bank note.
- The scenes in the Buddhist monastery reference 18 Bronzemen, as the monks call themselves the "18 Bronzemen".
- "Sorrowful Rice" (黯然銷魂飯) is a reference to Yang Guo's Melancholic Palms (黯然銷魂掌) technique. The final battle between Chow and Bull Tong itself contains a couple of tongue-in-cheek references to Jin Yong (Louis Cha)'s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber and The Legend of the Condor Heroes in the original Cantonese dialogue, which is however obscured in the English subtitles.
In its Hong Kong theatrical run, the film grossed HK$15,887,000.