Since this documentary is about a Zen Master you have to know it’s going to be about more than cooking, even though the Master, Bernie Glassman, is a cook. He was also once a rocket scientist.

The movie references Master Glassman’s book, “Instructions to the Cook, A Zen Master’s Lessons in Living a Life That Matters.” He models his life on a mandala based on the 5 energies: business, social action, study, spirituality, and integration. He structured the book as though it was a 5-course dinner. The movie makes a stab at a similar structure but finds itself leaving the figurative dinner table for asides provided by interviews with Glassman and others.

This Master is not a recipe kind of guy. He opens the fridge and looks at what’s inside, and from thence comes a meal. But first he must clean the kitchen, which is akin to cleaning the mind, or maybe it’s the same thing. This is all very Zen, you know.

He believes in being open to life experiences (having the beginner’s mind) the same way he is before the open refrigerator door.

Here is the menu as presented in the movie:

  • The First Course—Recipes for Spirit.
  • The Second Course—Recipes for Learning.
  • The Third Course—Recipes for Livelihood.
  • The Fourth Course—Recipes for Social Change.
  • The Fifth Course—Recipes for Community.

They match up nicely with the 5 energies, don’t they?

This movie gently draws you in with the kitchen theme, but we learn that Bernie (after watching the movie I feel I can call him Bernie) is more than a Monk of Cooking.

He works with families, AIDs sufferers, the homeless, felons, anyone in need, apparently. In his calm, unassuming way this Zen Master is a man of action, compassion, and vision. He is obviously loved by many. He is obviously living a life that matters. Now I want to read his book.