Multi-talented writer/director/actor Jon Favreau’s newest, somewhat under-the-radar movie, "Chef," is funny, compassionate, light-hearted food porn. This appealing food comedy tells the story of a creative chef who starts a food truck after being fired from a nice California restaurant. While dealing with his new business and driving the truck from Miami to Los Angeles, he must also figure out how to be a decent father to his son. "Chef" leverages a well-known cast for witty banter, heart-to-heart moments, and peeks inside social media and the food trucks trend. It also has more than enough shots of amazing, mouth-watering food that will make you leave the theater starving.
Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a fun, hard-working chef at a fancy restaurant in Los Angeles. He is divorced from his wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara), and struggles to find time to see his son (Emjay Anthony). He also has problems connecting with his son and spends a majority of his time working. When food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) comes into Casper’s restaurant to review his food, the restaurant’s owner, Riva (Dustin Hoffman) forces Casper to cook a traditional, fancy meal of the owner’s choosing, instead of what Casper believes will be a unique hit. After receiving a negative review of his food and accidentally sending Ramsey Michel a stern public message on Twitter that he believes to be private, Casper and Michel engage in a public feud, which leads to a rematch of Casper’s cooking and a very similar situation with the restaurant owner as before. As a result of the events, Casper loses his job at the restaurant.
This is when the movie takes a complete turn in setting, plot, and the events that follow, sending Casper on an adventure to Miami to meet with his ex-wife’s ex-husband, Marvin, played by a smooth, witty Robert Downey Jr. Marvin sets Casper up with a food truck, which he uses to start a Cuban food/sandwich service. During this time, Casper must get the truck up and running and drive it to L.A. He is joined by his son and cooking buddy, Martin (John Leguziamo). While on their cross-country road trip, Casper begins to connect and form a bond with his son, and all three of them look like they are having the time of their lives driving from city to city and cooking like crazy.
"Chef" is, in large part, what a lot of people like to call “movie comfort food.” Not only is it one of the better food-involved movies I’ve seen; it’s one of those films that’s very enjoyable and worth watching for so many reasons, but doesn’t have anything terribly out of the ordinary or too many surprises. It’s got a fairly generic plot that’s been done many times –- man struggling to be a good family man and a pursue his dream, gets knocked down, and spends most of the movie fighting his way back to the top (redemption tale). But this story is very well presented here, as the audience can feel for the characters, watch them grow closer, and appear to have a great time on screen. Watching this film is harmless, uncomplicated fun.
Another aspect I enjoyed is how much is done with so little. There are few main actors, most of who excel at their performances and are a joy to watch, leaving you wanting more. The story is simple, the film uses minimal sets/locations (although visiting and showing a variety of major cities such Austin, Miami, L.A., and New Orleans), and the characters spend most of their time in the restaurant, various houses, and the food truck. Similar to most of the characters performances, I felt like I could spend all day watching certain characters bantering back and forth while doing something they loved, be it cooking, enjoying life, or growing their relationships with those around them.
The movie is not short on references to popular movements, such as social media and the food truck craze that seems to be sweeping the nation. Twitter plays a large role as Casper’s son attempts to teach him how to use it (in comical fashion), and it becomes heavily involved with the food truck as the business’ main source of advertising using location tracking, daily food specials, reviews, updates and more. The film uses a technique that I enjoy and seems to be becoming more popular as well – frequently displaying a phone window, text or chat box, or Twitter/Internet page up on the movie screen, so the audience can further engage with what’s happening and understand messages being received that often effect what happens in the movie.
Make sure you see this film on a full stomach or have something to munch on, because the endless shots and scenes with incredible-looking food is almost too much to handle. From gourmet food, juicy meats, cooked vegetables, caviar dishes, and extravagant desserts, to everyday food such as grilled cheese, hot sandwiches, pasta dishes, and more; this movie is a dream for foodies.
"Chef" has something to offer just about anyone, as it involves being passionate about something -– be it a job, family, etc., moving from one career to another, father/son and family bonding, having a good time, and much more. I highly recommend this film for families, young and old adults alike, and anyone who loves food!
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
"Chef" is rated R for language, including some suggestive references. Running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.
Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. For more of his reviews on WFAA, click here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and when not writing reviews or covering an event, he works in film production. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.