My favorite film at the Chicago International Film Festival this year was Insatiable: The Homaro Cantu Story. The documentary follows the life of famous chef Homaro Cantu on his quest to change the world through food.
Homaro, or Omar, had a really rough childhood. He spent a good chunk of his young life homeless with his mother and sister. He and his sister eventually moved in with their father, but Omar ended up bouncing between his father’s and aunt’s homes. After ending up homeless again, Omar eventually finds himself in culinary school, and that is where the real story begins.
Homaro’s first claim to fame, and what really put him on the map was his first restaurant, Moto. What made Moto so special was the type of food they made. I’m not talking about Asian or Thai, but food created with molecular gastronomy. Moto could make food look like anything. A great example of this is their Cuban cigar shaped Cuban sandwich. To the right is an image of what appears to be just a regular cigar in an ashtray. This is actually a Cuban sandwich from Moto. This was just one of their crazy concoctions. Others include edible menus, sushi flavored pictures of sushi, and carbonated fruit.
While toying with flavors for Moto’s menu, Omar stumbled across a really interesting fruit called Synsepalum dulcificum, or the Miracle Berry. The Miracle Berry is so special because it tricks your taste receptors into thinking that sour and bitter foods are actually sweet. After playing with the berry, the first big thing Omar did was create a pill from the berry.He then gave it to a friend that was going through chemotherapy treatments. This person was able to eat their first real meal in weeks because of the Miracle Berry getting rid of the metallic taste of everything that chemo patients commonly deal with. After giving Miracle Berry pills to even more chemo patients, Omar had found his calling. He decided that he would change the world with the Miracle Berry. He would do it by creating healthy junk food and curing obesity.
Homaro’s second restaurant, iNG, was built around this idea of healthy junk food and flavor tricks. Both restaurants were fairly successful, and Homaro planned on using them to fund a lab to do more research on the Miracle Berry. So far he had gotten the berry into a pill that you took before eating. In the video below, our friends from Vat19 show us just how powerful those pills were. Omar was not satisfied though. He wanted to find a way to make food that already had the enzyme from the berry inside it, therefore replacing sugar and other artificial flavors.
Unfortunately, Omar’s success quickly started to unravel. After dealing with repeated flooding in iNG, he had to permanently close the restaurant. Soon after that, he was hit with a lawsuit over the way investor funds were used. In April of 2015, Homaro committed suicide inside of a building that he was renovating into a brewery.
I loved this film the whole way throughout, and it was only made better by the director’s comments at the end of the film. Homaro’s death happened in the middle of filming the documentary, so the director talked to us about what he changed in order to make it a tribute to Omar. There was great use of family photos and videos, as well as professional film. I rate this film at least a 4 out of 5, and definitely would recommend it to anyone.