Chef is cinematic culinary treat
There’s just one piece of advice I’d offer before viewing the fantastic Chef — see it on a full stomach otherwise you’ll be too busy salivating to fully appreciate one of the year’s finest.
Jon Favreau again proves he’s one of Hollywood’s most dynamic triple threats as he stars, wrote and directed this charming look at the life of an uninspired gourmet chef.
Carl Casper (Favreau) has felt like he’s in a bit of a creative rut. Crowds still come for the dishes he’s grown bored making over the past decade, but few customers are willing to sample his new creations. It’s simple logic to restaurant owner, Riva (Dustin Hoffman) — keep cranking out the hits, don’t bother experimenting.
Carl’s restaurant success has come at the cost of his family. He’s still friendly with his ex-wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara, Machete Kills), but Carl offers little more than leftover time for his 10-year-old son, Percy (Emjay Anthony).
Carl’s excited about wowing famed restaurant critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), coming in for a review and wants his kitchen staff, including his best friend, Martin (the always terrific John Leguizamo, John Wick); assistant chef Tony (Bobby Cannavale) and hostess (Scarlett Johansson, Lucy) to help prepare for a meal Ramsey won’t forget.
Mission accomplished from one perspective as Ramsey writes a scathing review that sends Carl spiraling, culminating in a meltdown that becomes a viral sensation.
With no job prospects, Carl tags along with Inez and Percy on a trip to Miami, which reignites his creative fires to the point where he finally goes along with Inez’s suggestion to establish a food truck business.
Favreau calls in a few favors to get cameo appearances from Iron Man 2 stars Robert Downey Jr. and Johansson. The one indulgence Favreau allows is putting himself in relationships with Johansson and Vergara, but can you blame him?
Repairing the broken down truck proves a bonding experience for Carl and Percy. This newfound father/son connection is the heart of the film and in a cast full of winning performers, Anthony is the most charming. That’s in part to Favreau not writing Percy like a head-in-the-iCloud tech-obsessed kid, but one who wants a genuine relationship with his father and the other is Anthony is just so likable.
Martin quickly joins them and the trio starts a cross-country road trip that soon makes the food truck a social media event.
Buoyed with an energetic and lively soundtrack, Chef bops along through Miami; New Orleans; Austin, Texas, picking up new fans and recipe inspirations. Though the stopovers are brief, Favreau is economical with his time and allows viewers to get a taste of these very distinct cities leading to one of the more enjoyable cross-country films in years.
There’s not a lot of plot surprises here — Favreau telegraphs the perhaps not needed overly happy ending, early on, but it’s harmless to the point of complaining the snark-free film is too enjoyable. Just sit back and enjoy a delectable piece of cinema that’s as refreshing as it is fun.