Jon Favreau seems to be one of the most eclectic directors working today, going from comedies with Elf to sci-fi with Zathura to superhero blockbusters with the first two Iron Man films. Now with Chef, Jon Favreau has gone back to his low budget roots to create a really funny and heartwarming comedy.
The plot concerns Carl Casper, a chef at an upscale LA restaurant who has lost his creative drive and, after a bad review and his subsequent flame war with the critic on Twitter, ends up losing his job and decides to get a food truck in order to reignite his passion for food. Along with this is that he uses the truck to rebuild his relationship with his son which has been falling apart. The whole film really works as a show of the creative rut that chefs can fall into and the difficulty they have in trying to get sell new ideas. The film starts with Casper cooking the customer favourite dishes for the critic instead of the dishes he wants to cook but we also know that the last time he tried something new it failed. There is also a good bit showing how restaurant owners get involved with the chefs and how detrimental this can be considering that the owners don't understand how the mind of a chef works. At the same time though, despite the food Casper is serving at the start being uninspired, he still feels a great deal of respect for the food and for the customer. This is seen when, after he buys the food truck, he stops his son from serving a burnt sandwich by telling him just how important the food is to him, which is a great show of the power that food can have to people. This is also another one of those films like Frank which makes great use of social media with a lot of business for the food truck being drummed up by Carl's son advertising it on Facebook, Twitter and Vine, making it a really timely film.
The heartwarming and humourous nature of the film is mainly provided by a brilliant cast. Jon Favreau is brilliant as Casper, showing his deep love for food, but also a resignation at the start of the film that he isn't able to cook the food he wants and, as the film goes on, we see him open up more and become happier. Plus, the relationship between Casper and his son, Percy, is aided by Favreau having great chemistry with EmJay Anthony. A lot of the laughs in the film meanwhile are provided by John Leguizamo and Sofia Vergara but the comedic highlights of the film are Oliver Platt, who gives off this really pretentious air and his reactions to the food at the start of the film, done just through his facial expressions, are brilliant, and Robert Downey Jr, who just steals the film in the brief scene he has. If there is one complaint I have about the cast it's that Dustin Hoffman and Scarlett Johansson, who give great performances, are not utilised the best way in the film.
The last thing I want to talk about is the food. Simply put, this film is food porn and there were numerous points in the film where my mouth was watering because the food looked so good, hell it even makes a big deal out of a grilled cheese sandwich. Plus, learning that the cast did their own cooking and prep for the film adds to the performances as it helps you buy that these characters are top chefs. It also highlights the experience that eating certain food in certain places has with the stops in Miami, New Orleans and Austin highlighting the distinctive types of food that are present in these areas. My advice for the film, have something to eat either right before or right after watching the film as you will be hungry watching it.
Overall, Chef is a really enjoyable experience. It's really funny, heartwarming, the performances are excellent and it does the best thing it can for a film about food and shows the food a great deal of care and attention, the same level that a professional chef would show.
My Rating: 4.5/5