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Just Add Romance

Grade: B

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Meghann Fahy - Carly

Luke Macfarlane - Jason

The movie starts with the female lead, Carly, on her way to her culinary school class. She stops at a farmers market because apparently her cooking school doesn't provide any fresh herbs.

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Carly meets a cute guy named Jason in her class who teases her about her weird alterations to classic recipes. She retaliates by calling his dishes a snorefest, however, since Carly is putting mint in her bouillabaisse, (a fish stew)...I gotta side with Jason on this one - that's super gross.

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More importantly though, why are they making their bouillabaisse on a counter and not on the stove behind them? Is using heat too advanced for these students? 

Uh yeah...Check out Jason's shirt. These people are not ready for fire yet.

I guess they'll just season some meat and stare at it.

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 After class, Carly goes to visit her Dad who is a super famous chef. No pressure Carly.

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She tells him about her day at school and an apprenticeship she might get in France. He talks about shallots and advises her not to get too adventurous in the kitchen. Thanks Dad.

Back at the culinary school the next day, Jason is missing! “Why would he just leave?” says a rando girl next to Carly. “Yeah, and he didn’t even say goodbye. I wonder what happened?" Carly ponders this for a moment and then she doesn’t give a sh*t apparently.

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Then we find out that Jason’s Dad broke his arm and couldn’t run the family diner anymore, so Jason just dropped out of culinary school to help him out.


Question: Does this make him self-sacrificing? Because if he hadn't helped his Dad he would have been a kind of an douchebag right? Shoot, now I'm conflicted.

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3 years later…


Carly is now the Executive Chef of a chain restaurant and she’s not super happy about it. We know this because when the Manager comes over and compliments her on her Pasta Primavera - Carly loses her sh*t.


“But the Pasta Primavera is the same every day! Same recipe! Same flavor! Sometimes I just want to go wild and make an unpredictable, unconventional Pasta Primavera!"


Side Note: If Carly explodes like this when the Manger compliments her, what does she do when the Manager has bad news? 

The Manager tells her about a cooking contest coming to Chicago called Kitchen Showdown where the winner gets to open their own restaurant. Carly should go away and never come back enter!

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Now we are in a different kitchen where Jason is the chef. As he is telling his sous chef to buy an expensive olive oil for the restaurant, his boss, Kent, comes over and complains about the expense.


It’s a bottle of olive oil dude, chill.

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After Kent leaves, Jason’s sous chef tells him, “You should go on Kitchen Showdown and get your own restaurant and take me with you!”

They did it! They entered! Gee, I wonder if they’ll make it to the final two?

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Now we are back at Carly’s chain restaurant watching her freak out over every customer that walks in. She is completely obsessed with the fact that Kitchen Showdown will be sending people in to try her food.

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They both got chosen for the show! What a complete and utter surprise! 

Next we get to meet the other contestants: Winston, Suzanne, Tina, and Peter. AKA:

  Captain Egomaniac      

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Super Anti-Social Woman 

Sidekick Girl 

Expendable Boy

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Following this, everyone gets to meet Beverly Chadwick, the host of Kitchen Showdown and also one of the judges. She enters and gives the contestants a 4 second pep talk. 

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Then she abruptly walks out to a round of applause from the contestants for a speech she made up two minutes ago in the bathroom. Seriously, this chick is phoning her job in.

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They all get their “Kitchen Showdown” apparel and Jason’s chef coat is ridiculously small. No chef wears a jacket this tight - it’s not practical. You can’t cook delicious food all night if you are fainting from lack of oxygen.

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Wait a minute….I made it work.

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Producer Girl tells them that they will be shooting their individual intros, so now we get to hear the life stories all the contestants who will be cut. I will try and care...




At the mention of bios, Winston turns to the group and says, “I have a rather large resume,” which NONE of us is going to assume is a euphemism for anything else. C'mon people, let's keep it professional.

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While they are waiting for their turn to be filmed, Jason talks to Carly about something, but honestly, I couldn’t focus on what he was saying because his ridiculously tight shirt was giving him ginormous moobs. Also, is it just me or have his sleeves gotten shorter?

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The bios were all pretty boring  - except Peter's. Apparently he was going to be a lawyer, but went into food instead. His parents are still crying.

"I tried to get into law school, but I couldn't find the door."

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Time to meet the judges!

       Host Lady                

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 Poser Pants 

 Jose Wrinkle-Grumps

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Producer Lady explains the rules."Your first assignment is to make a dish that got its start here in Chicago. You will have thirty minutes to do all of your shopping." 

Ready! Set! GO SHOPPING!

BTW, Winston will legit mow you down

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Surprisingly, as they are all running around the store, Winston asks Jason for help. "My sous chef normally does my shopping for me. Who has the best shrimp?”

"Try Maddies around the corner" Jason replies.


Side Note: Huh? Did Jason just send Winston to another store? When Producer Lady said, GO SHOPPING! Did she mean in all of Chicago?

I'm lost.

Jason and Carly meet at the meat counter and both stare at the pepperoni.

(Remember, NOT a euphemism - just good clean fun!)


They realize that they are both planning on making Deep Dish Pizza so Carly changes her dish to Pizza Puffs a la Chicago. 

Side Note: So they are in a food competition and they decide to make pizza and pizza puffs. Seriously guys, if this represents the breadth of your culinary creativity, then just hit the frozen food section and defrost some Totino's pizza rolls.

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Also, I assume Hallmark does not have it in the budget to teach their actors simple cooking skills. Instead, they've opted to place a ton of kitchen equipment in front of their work stations so we can't see what they're doing.


In the shot below I'm guessing Suzanne is reheating a bunch of Egg Mcmuffins, while Winston tries to figure out a peanut butter sandwich. 

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Next everybody fake cooks for awhile. Peter stirs a pot of nothing, while Carly, who is making three servings for three judges, dices enough onions to build a moderately-sized sandcastle.

Also, Carly also keeps a very sloppy work area and seems adverse to using the entirely of an onion. Maybe she thinks the onion equator tastes best.

BTW is Carly using a cutting board here, or is she dicing her onions straight on the countertop?

Good grief, her station is literally too filthy for me to tell.

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Jason looks at her onion madness and says, "How do you cook like that?" Which is pretty hilarious coming from a dude wearing basically a leotard.

Shockingly, Carly replies, "I need more onion."

Holy Chopping Block, what in the name of Sweet Baby Jesus is she making?

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Jason throws her one of his onions along with a little smack talk. Carly is unappreciative.

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Next, Winston walks by and passive-aggressively yells to the air, "Less talking! More cooking!" 


Because as we all know there is absolutely no place for communication in a busy kitchen. Quiet and stealthy is the key when walking behind people with boiling hot pans and sharp knives. 

Oh my - the results are in and Peter is out! His beef sandwich was bland and overcooked!


Good call judges - but quick question, if Peter can't even make a sandwich, how the freakin' *#@&! did he make it onto this show?  

As Peter leaves the set he says to Jason, "Here’s the upside of being the first one cut. It’ll make a great story when I open my incredibly successful restaurant someday. But don’t order the thinly sliced beef!"

Side Note: So, is he saying he'll never be able to cook thinly sliced meat....ever? Oh well, maybe his incredibly successful restaurant is a Baskin Robbins.

For the next round they need to make a dish that is personal to them which they will be serving to family members. Carly struggles with figuring out a dish that will impress her famous Dad. She finally decides on Chicken Kiev for reasons I, sadly, don't care about. 

Here are three of the dishes from this round. I couldn't get a good shot of the fourth, but one cares.

Carly's Snot Volcano

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This one for sure should win the

Most Beautiful Plating Award (blech!)

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Hey, if you add a couple more pita triangles to this one you could cover up the whole mess.

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Oops, I didn't get a picture of Tina's gumbo which was the dish that didn't win. Dang, I'll just have to draw it then. 

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Judges: "Tina, your gumbo did remind us of New Orleans, but only because it smelled like the dirty bare feet of a drunk college student at Mardi Gras. Please leave the kitchen."

Next, Carly and Jason get some alone time when they go out for late night coffee and dessert.

However, I question the directorial decision to have them eating blueberry pie in this scene. Carly wisely never smiles, but Jason's teeth were definitely stained blue. 

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The next challenge takes place at a resort on Lake Michigan. Although we have seen some pretty simplistic dishes so far, the new task is to cook a comfort food dish, so we'll probably be sinking even lower. I'm guessing either mac and cheese or Smore's will make an appearance.


Carly and Suzanne (aka Super Anti-Social Woman) have a lovely conversation as they enter the hotel:

Carly: Well this should be fun!

Suzanne: Too many variables in an unfamiliar kitchen. I don’t want anything to throw me off my game.

Carly: Gee, I wish we had time to go hiking!

Suzanne: I have allergies. Nature isn’t my thing.

My sounds like someone needs a shot of vodka. 

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Winston and Jason check out the hotel together and if there was ever two people who should not do anything together this is it.

Jason: I wonder if I have time for run? Its beautiful here.

Winston: You’ve seen one lake, you’ve seen them all.

Jason: I really like the comfort food assignment. I can return to my diner roots!

Winston: Comfort is a warm blanket. Food should be elegant and sophisticated.


What an a**hole.

Next, to my complete and utter surprise, Winston holds his arms out, gracefully turns in a circle and ends up in a Ballet stance called fifth position. 

WTF? I rewound this about a hundred times.

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Back to the story...

Due to a production snafu the contestants find out they have the entire day off, which is just enough time to fall in love, am I right?

They meet by complete and utter chance on the elevator, she is going for a hike and he is going for a run. Jason changes his plans and asks to join her and she says okay!

During the hike it comes as no surprise when he wants to stay on the trail and she doesn't. I mean, I get that opposites attract, but at a certain point we got to call an "opposite" what it is...a person who will never want to do anything you want to do.

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They get back from their hike and decide to have dinner together. As pals. Uh huh.

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Here is Carly running into Suzanne on her way to dinner with her "pal" Jason.

Nice "pal" outfit Carly. Also, where are you hiding your room key?

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QUESTION: Why is their table out in the middle of a dance floor and pointedly

away from all other diners?

I get they're the stars, but this just looks weird.

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They reminisce about their first day of culinary school where they claim to have made chocolate soufflés.


Side Note: Excuse me, but I'd like to call BS on that one. FYI I’ve been through culinary school, and you do not make chocolate soufflés on the first day. It's more like, here's a knife and this is an onion.  


Jason makes a big move at dinner and tells Carly he had a crush on her in culinary school and that he would've asked her out had he stayed. Basically, he totally lays his feelings out there for her to skewer and slow cook over hot coals if she so chooses.

Carly admits she is having a good time at their dinner, but then adds that maybe it's not such a good thing given their circumstances.

Wow, what a terrible response to the baring of his heart. Hopefully, when he finally gets around to saying "I love you" she won't respond, "Sounds good."

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Walking back to their rooms they share a romantic kiss in the moonlight but then they are rudely interrupted by a blinding light!

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The next day Carly pulls Jason aside to talk about all the unwanted attention. 

"This is not the attention we want to be getting," she tells him agitatedly.

"It was just a kiss." he replies, "We didn’t break any rules."

Carly looks unconvinced. "I think we should keep our distance…just until the competition is done, otherwise it's too complicated." Jason replies, "Yeah, I get it…complicated."

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The contestants go shopping for their dishes which are going to be; chicken pot pie, lasagna, mac and cheese (told ya') and shepherd's pie.

If Betty Crocker and Suzy Homemaker had a baby and that baby held a cooking competition this would be it. 

Either that or this contest has been brought to you by Applebee's.

As they are shopping for groceries, Carly can't find the cheese she wants for her Shepard's Pie dish. Jason overhears her griping about it and he gives her some of his. Geez, this guy certainly has helped her out a lot during this competition - and she has helped him out not at all.

Here they all are waiting for the judges decision in their

"I'm Waiting For The Judges Decision" pose. 

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Winston gets eliminated because apparently his lasagna dish was too "highbrow" for the hotel guests who tried it. 

Side Note: Huh? Lasagna is "highbrow"? Because I thought it was a dish you make for a girl's soccer team sleepover. 

All the remaining contestants head back to Chicago. As they are leaving the hotel, Carly and Jason run into each other on the elevator and literally can’t keep their mouths apart.


Unfortunately for them though, their kisses are evidently cursed to be interrupted by the same people every time.

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 Sweet Heaven, I can't help myself...       

This is happening...!

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SURPRISE! Guess who is waiting outside the elevator!    

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Next, we see Suzanne knocking on the door of Producer Lady's office.

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"It's  about Carly and Jason and their relationship, " she says, "I'm just afraid they'll get more attention from the judges."

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Side Note: Congratulations Suzanne, you are 100% correct. Carly and Jason WILL get more attention than you. And it doesn't matter what you say to Producer Lady right now, or how many cameras they aim at you during the show, because whenever your face appears on the TV screen, viewers all over the world will decide they have to pee. 

Sorry Meanface, but no one likes you.

The next round is about classic French Cuisine and the three chefs make Beef Bourguignon (Carly), Cassoulet (Jason) and Coq au Vin (Suzanne). Obviously Suzanne loses and we are down to the final two Jason and Carly. Gee, what a nail biter. (yawn)

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BTW here is a random photo from the internet of Coq au Vin. Looks pretty delicious right?

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…and here is Suzanne's dish from Kitchen Showdown.

Gee, I sure hope that big chunk of bumpy yellow is chicken.

Fingers crossed everybody!

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Oh dear! It looks like we need to send Suzanne's dish back to the kitchen, somebody threw up on it.

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So Carly and Jason are left to battle for the win. As they are leaving the studio for the night Jason gets a call from his boss Kent. You remember Kent right? Short, nerdy and kind of a douchbag? Yeah well, nothing's changed - when Jason arrives at the restaurant Kent legit fires him. 

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Carly and Jason meet up that night to go for a walk. She finds out he got fired and they fall in love some more. (I'm guessing)

When Carly gets home her Dad is waiting for her. He tells her he is proud of her and gives her a hug and blah, blah, blah. It's pretty much a snoozefest. However, this one compliment magically makes Carly realize she wants to win the contest for herself and not just to prove something to her Dad.

However, this begs the question, is this the first time he has told her he's proud of her? Because that's lame. Poor Carly, it can't have been be fun to be raised by a parent that is not good at their job. 

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The next day they find out their final task: Make your Best Dish. You know, the one that you can make with one hand in your sleep. Oh and by the way, we are bringing back all the Loser Contestants to help you make this very familiar dish that you are are completely comfortable making all by yourself with one hand in your sleep.


What an incredibly challenging FInal Round.

Also, it ends up being Boys against Girls.

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Then Carly gets really angry at Jason because he changed from making Chicken Cordon Bleu to something with truffle sauce and SHE is making something with truffle sauce! What the hell Jason!

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Jason calms her down by telling her that he chose a truffle dish to honor his Dad since they used to cook that same dish together in the diner, and she apologizes. Whew! They almost didn't fall in love and kiss at the end!

Everyone goes back to fake cooking for awhile and then the contest is over. Hands up contestants!

Hilariously, the three judges can't decide on a winner. One of them actually says "I can't decide" even though that is literally all she is there to do. 

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Carly bails out these idiots by suggesting that she and Jason Open a restaurant together. The judges deliberate and, since they don't have any better ideas, they shrug and say, "Yeah, sure whatever." Carly and Jason laugh manically in response.


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Okay, I'm scared.

Flash forward to the opening night of their restaurant which they have named, "Delicious Duet."

I could go on and on about how terrible this name is, but seriously, it's a fake name for a fake restaurant so who really cares.

Next, we get a shot of Jason's Sous Chef working in front of the stove. 

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She is cooking for a restaurant full of people yet apparently a small saucepan of Ragu Pasta sauce and another of "something yellow" should give us plenty of food for everyone right? I mean we invited Jesus didn't we? We did? Oh good, then we're fine.

Oh look! Their Dads are helping out in the kitchen! And of course Carly has put them on onion duty, because you can never have enough diced onions - am I right Carly?

But, come to think of it, why are the Dad's sharing a cutting board? Who does this in a professional kitchen? Actually, who does this in any kitchen? 

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Now they drink and make out while everyone else runs their restaurant.

I give this place 6 months.

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- The Leads were likeable

- Winston and Suzanne were not at all likeable...but they need their own show

- If you like men in tight shirts you're gonna love this

- Winston's ballet routine


 - I don't think Hallmark hires content experts for anything. Certainly not for cooking.

 - The host's tagline of, "Please leave the kitchen" when she was kicking off contestants is about     as boring and basic as it gets...well except for, "You lost. Go away."

 - Delicious Duet is a terrible name for a restaurant...and a singing group 

 - Food waste and onion discrimination


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Credits: All photos, unless otherwise indicated, have come from the Hallmark Movie “Just Add Romance” which can be viewed on the Hallmark Channel

Vector Art Link: <a href="">Knife Vectors by Vecteezy</a>

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