“Chef” Review

Posted June 4, 2014 by John Newby in Movies

Warning: Watching Chef on an empty stomach is a terrible idea.

Starting from scratch never tasted so good. This is the tagline used for Chef, Jon Favreau’s new film about a chef trying to reconnect with his son. Yes, the line is slightly cheesy (no pun intended), but it is very fitting for the comedy that is Chef.

Favreau plays a celebrity chef named Carl Casper who is struggling with a terrible boss, an irritating food critic, and a son who just wants some attention. Casper’s intentions are always good, but he seems to keep failing when it comes to those that matter most to him. His situation seems to be at its worst when he tries to impress a food critic named Ramsey Michel with fancy food, but his horrible boss threatens to fire him for deviating from the set menu.

Casper decides to be the bigger man and cooks the set menu, but he gets torn apart by Michel in a 2-star review, causing him to start a Twitter war with the critic, quit his job, and have a public meltdown for all the world to see. To avoid heat from the public and reevaluate his life, Casper travels with his ex-wife Inez and their son Percy to Miami, where he comes into possession of a beaten-up taco truck.

After cleaning up the disgusting truck and making some amends with his estranged son, Casper rediscovers his love for cooking authentic Cuban food, and decides to drive the food truck from Miami to Los Angeles to share his gift. Along the way, Casper—with Percy and his former sous chef Martin in tow—visits multiple cities to spread his cuisine and sample the local culture. At each stop, Percy advertises the food truck using Twitter and other social media accounts, lining up customers for blocks.

The coolest food truck ever.

The coolest food truck ever.

This cross-country trip shows the heart of Chef in a way that the beginning chapter did not. The first portion of the movie introduced all of the main characters and showed how terrible Casper’s life was, which was very essential, but the actual trip is what made Chef such a wonderful film. Jon Favreau, Emjay Anthony, and John Leguizamo played extremely well off of each other, and I truly believed that they were a loving family. Small moments, such as the Corn Starch scene, showed the affection that these actors had for each other. Their chemistry was also showcased during the hectic cooking scenes because all three actors were able to work around each other in a cramped space in a way that made cooking look like a synchronized dance.

One benefit of Chef is the pure amount of food porn that takes place. Every scene featured close-up views of decadent meals being prepared. At one point, I was seriously drooling because Chef Casper was cooking what looked like the best grilled cheese sandwich ever created. El Jefe Cubanos (the name of the food truck) visited New Orleans, Austin, and other cities, so a large variety of delicious foods made an appearance. Favreau even learned how to cook like a master from a famous food truck chef so his scenes would be as authentic as possible.

Featuring delicious food is a great basis for a film, but you need a talented cast to make the plot matter. Favreau, Leguizamo, and Anthony played the main characters of Chef to perfection, but they were only a small part of a stellar cast. Oliver Platt continued his impressive recent work by playing the food critic who destroyed Casper and set this transformation in motion. Sofia Vergara also made an appearance as Casper’s ex-wife who still has a very soft spot in her heart for him.

Chef’s main cast was great, but some of the side characters stole the spotlight during their brief appearances. Bobby Cannavale was only included for part of the movie, but every line had me laughing. Most importantly, Robert Downey Jr. made an appearance in his first non-Iron Man collaboration with Jon Favreau. His short scene was easily the best few minutes of Chef. To top it off, Chef included Scarlett Johansson and Dustin Hoffman in excellent smaller roles. Throwing in a cameo by Russell Peters made Chef’s cast a massive asset to the movie.

Throughout Chef, Jon Favreau’s dedication to staying authentic could be seen, especially when it came to the soundtrack. Different locations of the film each included area-specific styles of music. The Austin scene featured Gary Clark Jr. playing his style of Texas Blues while the Miami scenes featured fantastic Cuban and Latin music. One scene in particular included a New Orleans’ reimagining of Sexual Healing. Each musical note seemed to fit perfectly within the given scenes.

Chef may have a ton of heart, but I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone easily offended. Jon Favreau set out to make an authentic movie about chefs, so the language is fitting for that environment. If you can deal with hearing “f$ck” a lot and a few dirty jokes, you will find Chef to be a hilarious film mixed in with some genuinely sweet moments. I will admit that some of the later scenes made me tear up a little bit, including the moment when Casper sees what Percy had been creating with his iPhone during the long road trip.

Chef uses social media in a way that doesn't seem forced.

Chef uses social media in a way that doesn’t seem forced.

Chef proves that you can make a unique comedy about reconnecting with family without being cheesy or terribly predictable while including decent references to modern technology. The opening scenes leading up to the food truck border on being too long, but they do include a large amount of backstory about Casper, his family, and his love of cooking. I only wish that Chef could be shown in more theaters because it is a fantastic movie.

About the Author

John Newby

A random dude obsessed with coffee, blue heelers, and most nerdy things. Big fan of Star Wars, Borderlands, Arrow/Flash, and a whole lotta video games. The Saboteur is underrated, and Silverado is the best movie ever made.