Chef

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Miami-born Carl Casper is the head chef of Gauloise in Brentwood, California. While popular with his kitchen staff and hostess Molly, the restaurant owner Riva wants Carl to stick to tired “classics” rather than innovative dishes. Carl has a strained relationship with his tech-savvy preteen son Percy and ex-wife Inez.

When Carl has a chance to prove his talents during a visit from prestigious critic and blogger Ramsey Michel, Riva demands that he stick with old favorites at the last minute, causing Carl to concede, leading to a scathing review. On Twitter, Carl insults Ramsey, not realizing that his reply is public, and gains a large Twitter following. Carl comes up with an inspirational new menu that his staff loves and invites Ramsey to a “rematch”. After a confrontation with Riva, Carl walks out, quitting. At home, he prepares the menu he wanted to serve to Ramsey, goes to the restaurant, and angrily berates Ramsey.

Videos featuring Carl’s meltdown go viral, and his professional credibility evaporates. Molly and Inez encourage him to run a food truck. He accepts Inez’s invitation to Miami, where he spends some quality time with Percy and rediscovers his love for Cuban cuisine. Inez’s ex-husband Marvin offers him a dilapidated food truck, and Carl reluctantly accepts. He and Percy bond while restoring the truck and buying groceries and Carl buys him a chef’s knife. Martin, his friend from Gauloise, turns down his restaurant promotion to work with Carl, who has become an exuberant and passionate chef again.

The three drive the food truck across the country back to Los Angeles, serving top-quality Cuban sandwiches and yuca fries. Percy finds ways to promote the food truck on social media websites, and the truck becomes successful in New Orleans and Austin, Texas, where the daily specials include items made with local ingredients such as po’ boys and barbecued brisket.

Back in Los Angeles, Carl realizes the importance of his relationship with his son and accepts Percy’s enthusiastic offer to help out on weekends and holidays. Ramsey visits the truck to explain that he wrote the bad review as he knew Carl’s creativity did not suit a restaurant which had been serving the same menu for years. He leaves with an offer to bankroll a new restaurant. In a flashforward set six months later, the new restaurant is a hit and closed for a private event: Carl and Inez remarry.

REVIEW:

Whenever I would go downtown to visit my ex at work for lunch, there would be food trucks all over the place. To this day, I still haven’t tried any food truck food, but maybe one day. Chef may have inspired that decision.

What is this about?

When chef Carl Casper’s plans for opening a restaurant in Los Angeles fail to pan out, he returns home to Miami and debuts a food truck instead.

What did I like?

Know where you came from. For those that don’t remember, before Jon Favreau directed big blockbusters like Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Cowboys & Aliens (which apparently was bad enough to have him contemplate quitting the business), he directed small, indie films. Remember Swingers? Sometimes, you can get too big for your britches and need to go back to basics in order to find that passion again. In some respects, you can say that this film is an allegory for Favreau’s career, because his character does just that, return to his roots and work up from there.

Tight leash. This film does something that so many other projects have failed to do and that is give us a kid that isn’t an annoying brat (even more impressive given that he lives with his apparently well-off mother) and give Sofia Vergara a character that isn’t a stereotype. The kid just wants to spend time with his dad, but unlike other children in film, he doesn’t scheme to ruin him in order to do it, he’s just patient about things. With Vergara, she still has her super thick accent, wears clothes that are a very tight, but she gives perhaps the best performance I’ve seen from her. All it took was for her to bring it down a couple of notches. Simple is better, people!

Food porn. Ever watch Food Network, or even just a commercial where food is being cooked and it looks so good that you want to just reach right through the screen and taste it? That is what this film does, especially in the first half. Favreau’s character cooks up all types of good stuff and it made my pidddly little dinner seem like bread and water in comparison. If you’re a foodie, you’ll eat this stuff up!

What didn’t I like?

With imagination. Changing the menu up doesn’t hurt anyone. On the one hand, if it succeeds, you’re looked at as a genius. If it flops, at least you tried something new and the customers will appreciate that. Even fast food changes their menu up once in awhile! Dustin Hoffman apparently didn’t get the memo, though, and on both night that the food critic comes in, he insists on serving the same boring food. A little imagination, rather than stubbornness, and maybe there would have been a glowing review, but I guess we’ll never know, now will we?

Scarlett. Arguably one of the most beautiful women in the world, Scarlett Johansson was very average looking in this film. Why? I can’t tell you. Maybe it was the bangs? The dark hair? No make-up? A combination of all of the above, but she wasn’t her normal hot self. Given that her character is a hostess of some sort, I would think she would still be some level of attractive. I’ve seen hostesses in restaurants that put glamour models to shame! Maybe if Scarlett used her look from Don Jon it would have been better? HA!

Twitter. No, I still have not joined Twitter. I’ve come close a few times, and then I realize no one would want to follow me, so I say “screw it!” This film however must have had some backing from Twitter because, once it is introduced, we don’t stop hearing about tweets, vines, and whatever else it is that people do over there. Realizing that this is how people get information out these days, I can appreciate the use of the service. However, I don’t think it needed to be shoved down our throats.

Many people were raving about Chef when it premiered at SXSW last year, and then when it had a major release. After watching tonight, I can see why. Favreau definitely has his groove back as a director. This is a film filled with comedy, drama, and food. I warn you now…DO NOT WATCH THIS ON AN EMPTY STOMACH!!! All in all, I had a good time watching and it isn’t hard to see why so many had this as one of their top films of the year. Do I recommend it? Yes, this is one of those film you must see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Chef”

  1. […] water. I’m not saying this needed to have the same kind of food budget or cinematography as Chef, but it would have been nice to see some of the actual food, even if was being messed up by certain […]

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