Kate is one of the best cooks in New York City. She's single. She's a perfectionist. And she's in therapy.
She doesn't really know why her boss has mandated the weekly counseling appointments as a condition of her employment. But everybody else seems to. In short, what's not clear to Kate is crystal to her co-workers: she's got issues. She runs the first-class kitchen at 22 Bleecker the way she runs her life—with complete control. Which explains why she doesn't really have any friends—or any ongoing relationships, really. But a little girl is about to change all that.
On the way to visit Kate, her sister Christine and her niece Zoe are involved in a car accident that claims Christine's life. Suddenly, Kate's neatly organized world is introduced to chaos by a grieving preteen to whom she must play guardian. She has no idea what to do with Zoe—she can't even get her to eat anything she cooks. To top it off, her boss has decided that she needs not only therapy, but also a new assistant chef, Nick.
In Kate's mind, Nick doesn't take anything—especially cooking—seriously enough. But it turns out that though he drives her to distraction, Kate needs Nick even more than she needs therapy. And Zoe needs them both.
Kate says, "I prefer things to be done exactly right. That's why I usually do everything myself." She also seems to prefer her lonely lifestyle to one full of relationships that she can't totally control. Then Zoe arrives. Caring for the scared, lonely girl, Kate discovers that she can't do everything herself and she can't be perfect. She genuinely tries to meet Zoe's needs, even though she doesn't have a clue what she's doing. And Zoe gives her aunt far more grace than most kids in her situation would.
Nick is a great foil to Kate's uptightness. Full of compliments and a healthy amount of spontaneity, he helps Zoe to open up and trust people in her new surroundings. In the process, Aunt Kate learns the same lessons. Nick also benefits from his relationship with Kate and Zoe, through which he learns to be assertive and go after his goals.
Kate's mother's positive influence on her is evidenced by her fantastic cooking. And the importance of involved fathers is highlighted by a comment about Kate's father, who was anything but involved in her young life.
Kate says there's no greater sin than to overcook a quail. Nick facetiously says that tiramisu means "food of the gods." Neither reference, though, carries any spiritual weight.
After a late-night cooking date, Kate and Nick kiss passionately. Moviegoers don't see what comes next, but he's still at her house in the morning, so it's clear to everyone—including Zoe—that he has spent the night. And he continues to do so, though he doesn't actually move in.
There's only a thin line between sleeping over and cohabitation, of course. And it's a subject made all the more interesting here by a conversation Kate has with her therapist. She recalls that she ended her last relationship three to four years previously because, after two years of dating, the guy wanted her to move in with him. The therapist replies, "What's so bad about moving in together?"
Speaking of out-of-wedlock sexual relationships, Kate mentions that she doesn't even know Zoe's father's name.
Elsewhere, a seafood wholesaler expects a kiss from Kate when he finds her a rare catch. Nick suggests that opera music makes sex more enjoyable. And he says that he once lost his job because he was fooling around with the boss's daughter.
We don't see the accident that kills Christine, but Kate is shown breaking the news to Zoe in the hospital afterward. Once, when she's angry with Kate, Zoe darts across a busy street and is almost hit by several cars. Kate half-jokingly brandishes a kitchen knife at Nick. She also slams a carving fork into a table in the restaurant when an obnoxious customer complains about his steak.
Crude or Profane Language
God's name is abused a handful of times (once alongside "d--n"). "H---" and "a--hole" are each said once. Crude words include "t-ts" and "perv."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Kate's restaurant is filled with wine and other alcoholic beverages. Drinks are served with nearly every dinner. Restaurant employees drink wine while sampling the daily specials. Nick and Kate open a bottle of wine in the kitchen after closing one night, and he brings her home drunk.
One of Zoe's babysitters leaves a plate full of cigarette butts on the table in Kate's house. It is implied that she smoked them while she was watching Zoe.
Other Negative Elements
Kate buys truffles from what appears to be a black-market vendor.
Like Waitress and Chocolat before it, No Reservations is a film in which food plays an artful supporting role. And Chef Kate learns that in life, as in cooking, the best recipes are the ones that are topped with a generous helping of love and togetherness.
Unfortunately, the film itself isn't as successful as its leading lady at concocting a tantalizing appetizer. Instead, it relies on the stale old ingredient of premarital sex to show that the two main characters are falling for each other. That—and the freely flowing alcohol—give this reviewer a few, ummm, reservations.