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Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate

Curious Caterer Dying for chocolate promo image

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ newest whodunit is Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate. The sluethy foodie theme is not new for a Hallmark mystery, with the outstanding The Gourmet Detective and Hanna Swenson Mysteries (formerly Murder, She Baked) having capitalized on the culinary concept. 

Hallmark wants this one to succeed, having cast superstars Andrew Walker and Nikki DeLoach as the leads. They are two of Hallmark’s most successful actors; they have a history of great chemistry when paired up. Together they have starred in Sweet Autumn, The Perfect Catch, and their best, A Dream of Christmas.

Hallmark not only went with proven stars in front of the camera but secured a talented writing team. Erinne Dobson was the Executive Story Editor for the Good Witch series and wrote several Hallmark movies. She paired with John Christian Plummer, a writer for Mystery 101, considered the best mystery series. In addition, he wrote the Riddled with Deceit episode of Marthas Vineyard Mysteries

The Details:

Release Date:   April 10, 2022

Director:    Anthony C. Metchie

Writers:    Erinne Dobson & John Christian Plummer. Based on Diane Mott Davidson’s book series (17 total). 

Filming Locations:    British Columbia, including Vancouver

Actors:   Andrew Walker, Nikki DeLoach, Erin Boyes, Jayce Dotin, Antonio Cayonne, and Jason Trembley

The Stars

Curious Caterer Nikki DeLoach in her kitchen holding a towel

Nikki DeLoach

Native Georgian, Nikki DeLoach, is a versatile entertainer. She knew she belonged in the spotlight early on, starting in the pageant world. She then joined the All-New Mickey Mouse Club in 1983, which featured a couple of other folks you may have heard of: Brtiney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Keri Russel, Ryan Gosling, and of course JC Chasez, whom she dated for several years. 

Like many of her fellow Mouseketeers, DeLoach went on to join a pop band, Innosense. However, she had slightly less success than Britney Spear, Christina Aguilera, and INSYNC. 

She transitioned from her singing career to acting with roles in various films and television shows, most notedly The House Bunny, Love & Other Drugs, and MTV’s Awkward.

In 2015 she had her Hallmark debut in the forgettable Christmas Land. Fortunately, Hallmark didn’t abandon her after her abysmal start, and she redeemed herself in the delightful A Dream of Christmas (starring opposite Andrew Walker).

She has become one of Hallmark’s most bankable stars appearing in a dozen movies before her role as Goldy Berry, the curioius caterer.

Her best work includes the A Dream of Christmas, Love to the Rescue, and The Perfect Catch (another with Andrew Walker).

About all she has done wrong was the regrettable decision to go with the bangs back in 2020. Fortunately, she has let them grow out, and once again has spectacular hair.  

Andrew Walker in a blue suit looking very detectively

Andrew Walker

Andrew Walker is the male equivalent to Lacey Chabert for the Hallmark Channel. Before Curious Caterer, he starred in twenty-two Hallmark movies. He doesn’t seem to be slowing down after recently signing an exclusive multi-picture deal with Crown media. 

Andrew Walker grew up in Montreal and may have pursued a football career. He was offered a scholarship to play football at Boston College but tore his ACL, which ended his career before it started. 

He directed his energies into acting and landed several roles in several Canadian television shows. With a bit of success under his belt, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career with a vengeance.

He stayed busy with roles in various television shows, from Sabrina, the Teenage Witch to ER and all the CSI’s. Before becoming a staple on Hallmark, he starred in Lifetime’s Abducted: A Fugitive for Love in 2007. 

Also, in 2007, Walker won praise and awards for his portrayal of a Neo-Nazi skinhead n trial for a racially-motivated murder in Steel Toes

While he has demonstrated he can tackle serious roles, Andrew Walker found his calling as a Hallmark leading man. He is charming, good-looking, and can match up with any actress cast with him. 

His first Hallmark movie was A Bride for Christmas with Arielle Kebbel. The movie was essentially a rip-off of Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson’s How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. While not a great, original script, Walker and Kebbel made a thoroughly enjoyable film. 

He teamed up again with Kebbel in Bridal Wave, which is cute. Bottled with Love is an all-time Hallmark best, must-watch movie. I also enjoyed My Family Christmas Tree. The movie has detractors, but I related to discovering a family you never existed over the holidays due to a DNA test. 

Nikki DeLoach looking at Andrew Walker

The Plot

Goldy Berry is recently divorced and starting a catering business. She got a big break to cater a fundraiser at her daughter’s private school led by the town’s leading socialite, Adele.

While Goldy is preparing the food, we are introduced to several of the characters. 

Her good friend Laura is also the school’s counselor. While Laura is chatting with Goldy, she tells her that she needs to discuss something with her. 

Before she has a chance, they are interrupted by Brad. He is Goldy’s daughter’s teacher and just happens to be crushing on Goldy. Before he has an opportunity to ask her out, Goldy nervously fabricates an excuse to escape the conversation. 

Then Goldy’s best friend, Marla and “partner” (she is a florist for events), comes into the kitchen and dishes some gossip and informs Goldy that her ex is there.

When we meet her ex, Dr. Richard, we discover, along with Goldy, that he is trying to find investors for the new wellness center she is planning on building. 

We soon meet Dr. Richard’s partners in the wellness center. Dr. Owen Gentel is a therapist that specializes in hypnotherapy and works with Laura in her private practice. And Archie, Adele’s husband, is the center of the town’s gossip about having an affair with Laura.

The last of the characters we meet is Julian, Adele’s son from her first marriage. He looks shady in a hoody hanging out in the parking lot, waiting for “someone.”

Another interesting parking lot scene comes later when Marla sees Dr. Richard arguing with Laura as she is leaving. 

After the event, Goldy is driving home when there is some accident that has the road blocked off. While the police officer is telling Goldy vaguely of s a fatal accident, his walkie-talkie blares, confirming the person in the accident was her friend Laura. 

Goldy rushes to the scene where Detective Toom Schulz is in charge of the crash’s investigation. He asks Goldy a few questions and lets on that some things are suspicious, so he isn’t convinced it was just an accident. 

The mystery is spun.

Throughout the rest of the movie, Goldy keeps becoming involved in the investigation, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. 

Detective Schulz slowly transforms from being annoyed by Goldy’s constant involvement to realizing she can be an asset and begins including her in the investigation. 

As with most mysteries, situations with each character put them in the investigation’s crosshairs as a suspect. 

Adele is jealous that her husband is having an affair and a suspiciously similar death of her first husband. Brad reveals he was previously in a relationship with Laura and was unceremoniously dumped by her years before. Dr. Richard is arguing with Laura about her resistance to the development of the wellness center. Archie has a prenup that would leave him with nothing if Adele divorces him. 

Goldy and Detective Schulz investigate each lead and grow closer and closer as Goldy becomes more involved in the investigation. Goldy is basically Detective Schulz’s partner, actively obtaining evidence by the end. Ultimately, Goldy solves the case and helps apprehend the culprit. 

Goldy in back of an ambulance talking to detective Schultz

My Review

Casting.   5/5

Plot: 3/5

Chemistry: 5/5

Writing: 3/5

Overall:   4/5

Well, I will start by saying Curious Caterer is not in the league of The Gourmet Detective or Mystery 101. But then again, those are the best of the best Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has to offer. 

The initial installment of the Curious Caterer (yes, I am assuming there will be more), Dying for Chocolate, is not bad. Nikki DeLoach and  Andrew Walker are both very competent in their respective roles of Goldy Berry and Detective Tom Schulz. 

These were their best roles in a while. You would have to go back to Love to the Rescue (2019) for DeLoach and Bottled with Love (2019) for Walker for performances equal to Curious Caterer. While I enjoyed My Christmas Family Tree, primarily because of Aimee Teagarden’s fantastic performance and storyline of her genealogical discovery. Andrew Walker’s character was underdeveloped due to the script rather than his performance.

Even better than their acting, the Goldy/Tom chemistry was outstanding. You could tell they were at ease with each other, probably from starring in several previous movies together. Even when there was tension between the two, the chemistry still was evident. 

As their relationship softens, you can see the subtle hints of a mutual attraction evolving. Detective Schulz’s interrogatory dialogue transforms into friendly banter and ultimately restrained flirtation. 

The rest of the characters were mostly decent. Kendall Cross did a great job walking the tight line for Adele between all-out bitch and just aloof. Lochlyn Munro delivered a solid performance as Goldy’s ex in a character persona he has perfected for Hallmark.  Riley Davis wasn’t dealt a good script with the Junior Deputy Mason role. I will be kind and view his over-the-top acting due to bad lines and worse direction. 

However, the brightest star of Curious Caterer was Goldy’s BFF, Marla, played by Jaycie Dotin. She was adorable, funny, and effervescent. She was so good that after I finished watching the movie, I went back and watched her scenes again to see if she was as good as I thought. It turns out she was even better. Hallmark would be wise to cast her in the lead of a romantic comedy and she would shine much like Kimberly Sustad.

Jaycie Dotin in a mustard colored sweater

While I have not read the Goldy Schulz series, I understand that Hallmark’s Dying for Chocolate combines storylines from the first two books, Catering to Nobody and Dying for Chocolate. Where the movie falls short is the actual mystery. This might be the reason for the shortfall: trying to do too much that the basics of a compelling core mystery are overlooked. 

The mystery aspect of Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate was pretty formulaic. 

First, Laura tells Goldy she needs to tell her something, only to say she will tell her later after they are interrupted by Brad. This is  mystery-speak for, “Sorry, I won’t actually be able to tell you later since I will be murdered shortly.”   

Secondly, each character has plausible storylines to cast doubt on them as having motive and opportunity to murder Laura. 

But when Goldy confronts the actual murderer, the movie takes a wrong turn. Goldy tackles the murderer, holding them at gunpoint, and disarms him while Detective Schulz stands idly next to her. This was just silly and out of place. It seemed like the writers simply didn’t know how to end the movie, so they just raised their hands and said, “what the hell.” 

This is especially unnecessary because one of the strengths of the characters is that Goldy isn’t an annoying busybody sleuth but reluctantly pulled in by questions surrounding her friend’s death. She works collaboratively with Tom Schulz, deferring to him as the professional detective. So why would she act so irrationally in tackling the murderer with the detective by her side? It just makes no sense. 

Overall, Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate is worth watching. Probably worth watching a couple of times. The chemistry (not just romantic) between Nikki DeLoach and Andrew Walker is enjoyable. Jaycie Dotin is genuinely delightful. Except for the unfortunate conclusion, the movie and mystery were fun enough. 

I hope Hallmark is committed to making at least three more installments of Curious Caterer to allow the characters and relationships to develop. Both Nikki DeLoach and Andrew Walker have the ability to develop this series into something special if given the opportunity. 

One thing from the books that they skipped over, not only is Marla Goldy’s best friend, but she was also married to her ex as well. This would have been a fun twist.