THE GOURMET DETECTIVE is the first film in a series; two additional films have aired to date, with a fourth planned for 2017.
Neal not only stars in the film, he served as one of the producers and cowrote the film with Becky Southwell, based on a mystery series by Peter King.
Neal plays Henry Ross, a celebrity chef who happens to be at a banquet when one of his colleagues suddenly dies -- possibly deliberately poisoned by seafood. Henry is recruited to serve as a consultant to San Francisco PD Detective Maggie Price, and his keen eye for detail, along with his knowledge of the culinary scene, helps Maggie crack the case.
Neal brings considerable depth to quirky Henry, who's also a past chess champion able to advise Maggie's teenage daughter Abby (Ali Skovbye) when she plays in a tournament. He isn't afraid to be a tad obnoxious, picking up the mess inside Maggie's car or advising her to eat "real food," but he's also quite charming -- especially when he shows up to cook breakfast for Maggie, her daughter, and her mom (Christine Willes).
Fully up with the times, Henry's also a food blogger, aided by his assistant Lucy (Shannon Chan-Kent).
Brooke Burns (THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR) has a tougher role as the uptight Maggie, who challenges Henry from the moment they "meet cute" when she attends his cooking class while on a date. Balancing a stressful job and single parenting, she's on the impatient side and doesn't suffer fools -- or bossy chefs -- gladly, but she gradually warms up to Henry as she comes to appreciate his talents.
The cast also includes Samantha Ferris, Matthew Kevin Anderson, and Marc Senior as Maggie's coworkers at SFPD. All three characters are fun, providing some nice moments of comic relief.
THE GOURMET DETECTIVE was directed by Scott Smith and filmed by James Liston.
Although set in San Francisco, the movie was filmed in Canada, like the majority of Hallmark films.
Fans of classic-era detective series should watch for this one. It's a fun film which can be enjoyed by the entire family.
Update: Reviews of THE GOURMET DETECTIVE: A HEALTHY PLACE TO DIE (2015) and DEATH AL DENTE: A GOURMET DETECTIVE MYSTERY (2016).