May 112014


Do you like food? I mean, do you really like food? Well writer-director-actor Jon Favreau clearly loves his food. Chef is a love letter to incredible food and depiction of how social media is changing the way we businesses develop. My review of Chef after the jump.

Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) has been head chef at high-class Los Angles restaurant for a decade. With the upcoming visit of an influential critic (Oliver Platt), Carl wants to cook the sort of food he really loves, in hope that this will impress the critic and in turn impress his boss (Dustin Hoffman), who is reluctant to change their menu. When the boss gets wind of Carl’s plan he shuts it down, forcing Carl to cook the standard menu. The review is not pretty, and neither is the fallout from Carl’s epic rant at the critic. Carl leaves his job and travels to his hometown of Miami with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony). In Miami is he convinced to take on a food truck which reignites his passion for simple food and sets him on a new culinary career path.

‘Don’t see Chef hungry’ was the advice I was given before this film and despite eating before the screening, I could have eaten a full rack of ribs, several triple cheese toasties and a really big steak right afterwards. This gorgeously photographed film is food porn – a rainbow of colours, flavours and incredible creations which made me very grateful that smell-o-vision hasn’t been invented yet. I think I would have passed out. The culinary road trip through various American food spots highlighted some of the country’s rich food culture and served as points of inspiration for Carl as a chef. Chef also explores the importance of social media as a tool for both harm and growth. While it’s a little heavy-handed (and depicts extremely miraculous business growth), it did capture how important the likes of Twitter has become to both businesses and customers looking for the next big thing. It also shines a spotlight on the cult of the personality and how people are often looking for more than just flavour with their food.

I found Carl’s meltdown and subsequent change of lifestyle quite inspiring. It’s true that people experience creative slumps and periods when things just don’t work. His frustration with his situation was very relatable and I enjoyed watching him rediscover his creativity and passion. Favreau wrote a character which he clearly relates to and his performance comes across as extremely natural. His change of career/falling in love with food again would have been a great 90 minute film on its own, so it’s a shame that the film had to add a “bad father mends the relationship with his son” story (and 20 minutes of unnecessary runtime) too. Emjay Anthony was great as Carl’s son and the scenes where he teaches Carl how to use social media were really funny. Couldn’t he have just been a regular busy Dad with a son? I’m not sure the film really needed the drama; Carl’s own story was interesting enough. I’m also not sure I can believe that Favreau is in the same league as Johansson and Vergara, but I enjoyed the small amount of screentime they each had.

Chef is an entertaining watch and a foodie delight – just make sure you have something amazing prepared to eat once the credits roll.

By Sam McCosh


The Facts

Director: Jon Favreau
Writer(s): Jon Favreau
Starring: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Emjay Anthony, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sofía Vergara
Runtime: 115 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: May 8 2014; USA: May 9 2014