Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy—Always Looking for Flavor with the 'Indiana Jones of Food'

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Cookbook author and food researcher/educator Diana Kennedy, now 97 years old, is the subject of a brilliant new biographical movie, Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy.

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy—Always Looking for Flavor with the 'Indiana Jones of Food'

Spunky, interesting, eternally curious, and a legendary educator and proponent of authentic Mexican cooking, she lives in Mexico—and has a greenhouse of regional plants that she calls her jewelry box. Gathered from around the country, she tends this one of a kind, Mexican-focused organic garden with great care. Passionate about sustainability and the earth, she knows that we can all make a difference...and need to, for the planet's (and humanity's) survival. 

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy—Always Looking for Flavor with the 'Indiana Jones of Food'

I absolutely LOVED this movie, and highly recommend it.

Kennedy's long career has been based on deep research, through travel and friendships and learning, about Mexican cuisine. She delved into how people lived, the landscape, and the flavors. She was always interested in the details of the dish, ingredients (including foraged items), and how they transformed that into local dishes. Kennedy wisely stated in the film, "You've got to be adventurous when you come here...and try everything."

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy—Always Looking for Flavor with the 'Indiana Jones of Food'

In the film, chef Rick Bayless noted, "She's an incredible repository of knowledge. She's the person in the English speaking world that first really mined the richness of regional Mexican cooking."

Kennedy's life has spanned the globe, from surviving WWII in the UK, experiencing a revolution in Haiti (where she met her future husband, Paul!), and, in 1957, moving with her husband to Mexico, where he was stationed as a journalist for the New York Times. After his death from cancer, she moved back to NYC for a while, where she started teaching cooking classes. 

She also remarked, "Your work life isn't love; it's out of passion, out of curiosity and energy."

She roasts her own coffee in an antique roaster, on the stove. To do this right, she said, "Take your time. If you come in the right mood and the right time, you'll have a decent cup of coffee."

Diana Kennedy roasting her own coffee. From Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy—Always Looking for Flavor with the 'Indiana Jones of Food'

The photography is extraordinary, capturing the essence of this feisty lady. The music is stellar, and the movie itself is one worth watching again and again.

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy—Always Looking for Flavor with the 'Indiana Jones of Food'

Cherish this gem of a movie; it's a glimpse into deep curiosity and extensive research, into experiential education, an appreciation of culture...and a life well-lived.

"I love to eat, and I love to cook."

About the film:

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy is an intimate, candid perspective into the curious world of cookbook author and British ex-pat Diana Kennedy - widely regarded as the world's expert on Mexican cuisine. At five feet tall and 97 years old, Diana is larger than life: a foul-mouthed fireball far more feisty and energetic than her age and petite frame let on. Author of nine Mexican cookbooks, she has spent over 60 years researching and documenting the regional cuisines of Mexico. Kennedy has lived 'off-the-grid' on an eight-acre ranch outside Zitácuaro, Michoacán since the 1970's: composting, growing her own crops, and using solar power to run her home. Aware of her own mortality, she is working tirelessly to solidify the legacy of her life's efforts, with the hope of turning her home into a foundation for culinary education in Mexico. 
A two-time James Beard Award winner, Diana was decorated with an Order of the Aztec Eagle from the Mexican government and became a Member of the Order of the British Empire from the UK in 2002. Despite her notable achievements, Diana is difficult  to categorize. Often referred to as the "Julia Child of Mexico,"  but Diana prefers a different title: "The Mick Jagger of Mexican Cuisine."
Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy explores Diana's vibrant,  unconventional life, blending vérité with archival footage, photographs and interviews. Viewers accompany her in intimate settings at home - cooking, gardening, and traveling to accept awards and speak to audiences. The film features interviews with notable chefs and friends including Alice Waters, José Andrés, Rick Bayless, and Gabriela Cámara, along with footage from Diana's TLC cooking show, "The Art of Mexican Cooking." Whether she is instructing chefs at her infamous "Boot Camp" cooking school, blazing her truck over the cobblestone roads of Zitácuaro or sunbathing with a scotch on her balcony, Diana is captivatingly bold, spirited, and unapologetically herself. 
Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy is Director Elizabeth Carroll's feature film debut. Carroll studied documentary film at the University of San Francisco under Academy-Award nominated filmmaker and Sundance fellow Sam Green. She has directed video content for The New York Times, and in 2013, she founded Honeywater Films to produce stories about food.  Carroll also produced the film, along with Dan Braun(Wild, Wild Country; Pick of the Litter).  Jonathan Gould, Anna Godas, and Margaret Martin serve as Executive Producers.

The film will be available on VOD (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) on June 19th. For the release this Friday, 5/22/20, please visit: https://www.dianakennedymovie.com/ to ascertain local theaters participating in the release, based on where you're located and how you can purchase tickets to watch the film.


Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy—Always Looking for Flavor with the 'Indiana Jones of Food'


All photos courtesy and copyright Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy, used with permission.