In I Am Love, Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino's operatic family melodrama, a popular Russian fish soup called ukha (pronounced ooh-kah) is more than set dressing on the wealthy Recchi family dinner table, it's a plot point that means something completely different to three characters. To Tilda Swinton's matriarch Emma Recchi – an emotionally stifled Russian émigré living in Milan – it's a reminder of the other life she lived back in her homeland while her son and heir to the Recchi fortune, Edo (Flavio Parenti), thinks of it as comfort food, the dish his mom made for him throughout his pampered boyhood. In Russia, ukha is a one-pot quickie meal made by simmering salmon, cod or perch in a saucepan filled with water, potatoes and parsley.
But chef Carlo Cracco, the owner of the Milan-based Ristorante Cracco and designer of all the food for “I Am Love,” so elevated Ukha that it becomes a scene-stealer: a way for a bold young immigrant chef (Edoardo Gabbriellini) to reach out from the kitchen to his lover at an opulent dinner party. To make the dish for the cameras, Cracco pan seared a variety of river fish then painstakingly arranged them in a clear, shimmering broth seasoned with vegetables and herbs. When Cracco's ukha hits the table in I Am Love, cinematographer Yorick Le Saux shoots it so rapturously that it feels as if each onscreen guest is being served a soup bowl of edible Van Cleef & Arpel's jewelry.