Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?

Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? Lorimar Productions 1978.
Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? Lorimar Productions 1978.

Before watching the movie:

I don’t remember how I originally came across this movie. Maybe I was looking up Robert Morley, maybe something else referenced the title, I don’t remember. But I do know that when I heard the title, I had to look it up to see if it was a real movie. And then I read the description and had to see it. And then it was not available online, so it ended up being a Christmas present. Which I am now watching.

I look forward to a globetrotting romp through culinary masterpieces, and also murder.

After watching the movie: Famous pastry chef Natasha O’Brien is invited to London to provide the dessert course of a state dinner for the Queen, but is accosted by her ex-husband Robby Ross, a fast food mogul trying again to break into the European market who needs a big name chef to headline. She is also included in Epicurious editor Max Vandeveer’s “World’s Most Fabulous Meal” article honoring Max’s favorite dishes from Europe’s greatest chefs, whose combined irresistible talents are destroying Max’s health. After the meal for the Queen, Nat spends the night with another chef from the event, only to find him dead the next morning, baked at 450 like his famous pigeon dish. After being questioned, she goes to Venice to interview another chef for Epicurious (followed by Robby), and is again wooed by the chef only to find him drowned in a tank of lobsters for his famous dish. Once Nat is cleared by the Venice police, Robby asks her to come to Paris to meet with a group of outstanding French chefs who are all worried they will be the next great chef murdered, or perhaps worried they won’t have that honor.

I was picturing something more on par with an Inspector Clouseau film, with an active investigation of a mystery around the continent. However, I’m fairly certain the entire story takes place in only three countries, and the stops in Italy and France are quite brief. There’s talk of going to some other places, but it seems like the “Europe” of the movie is Britain, France, and Italy. Of course, the Iron Curtain is a consideration (and Spain was sorting out what to do after Franco), but apparently a West German company co-produced this movie, and it along with Switzerland and the Scandinavian nations are forgotten.

It’s also much more understated of a comedy than I had in mind. The situation is zany, but the characters and happenings aside from the murders are mostly just witty. A lot of European character actors fill out the chefs’ roles, and especially the French ones can be comical, but it’s mostly very grounded people snarking at each other. Which is also entertaining.

I don’t like the handling of Robby. He’s introduced as a slimy guy, and he doesn’t so much change as we get to see his softer side. Having a facet to his personality other than selfishness doesn’t mean he deserves where he ends up. It may be a start to fixing his selfishness that earns him his ending, but it’s not actually an arc. Granted, he’s not the protagonist, but he is a main character, and he’s set up for redemption, which means he should actually be redeemed and not just rounded.

It’s not quite the marvelous, exotic romp I’d hoped for, but a very serviceable murder mystery romance comedy, with Robert Morley snobbishly stealing every scene he’s in. It may not be a cinema great, but I can see myself being interested in seeing it again sometime.


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