Chef, the new film from Iron Man director Jon Favreau, is a witty, sharp and down to earth comedy about what a man must sometimes do to realize his dream.
Jon Faveau has recently gained massive fame due to his works on the first two Iron Man movies, but he still remains an indie actor at heart, loving the small character studies. With Chef he has taken his new found glory as a writer and a director and applied it here to a movie that is small on scale but big on heart. Favreau also stars in the movie along side some of his heavyweight friends Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlet Johnasson.
The story is basically broken down into two parts, with the first being about a Chef named Carl Casper (Favreau) who despite working for a well paying, acclaimed restaurant, that has just bought him the kitchen of his dreams, is in a creative slump. The kitchen is owned by Riva (an excellently understated Dustin Hoffman) who has the “if it doesn’t need fixing, don’t fix it mentality”. It becomes clear early on that it is not only Casper’s work that is suffering, but his family life as well. He has an ex wife played by Sofía Vergara who still wants to look out for him and a son named Percy played by Emjay Anthony, who clearly wants nothing more then to spent time with dad. However Carl barely makes time for Percy once a week and refuses to listen to his ex wife, who is giving some solid advice.
Carl finally hits rock bottom when after an argument about the menu with Riva, a food critic named Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) pans the food he makes and gives it a venomous review that makes its way all over social media. Carl gets his son to teach him how to use Twitter, were he accidental sends a nasty reply to Ramsey, that he thought was a direct message. After inviting Ramsey back to the restaurant to try a whole new menu, that Riva is quick to shoot down, Carl quits and returns to the restaurant later that evening to let the critic have it. When someone makes a video of Carl going crazy, he pretty much becomes black balled in the restaurant business.
The second part of the movie is about Carl finally taking his ex-wife’s advice and getting a food truck, so he can service the food he is passionate about and be his own boss. To get the money for the truck, he must visit his ex wife’s, ex husband (a slick Robert Downey Jr.). Once Carl final gives in, he takes a road trip with Percy and his best friend Martin (John Leguizamo), selling the product he is passionate about across the country, while rediscovering himself and bonding with his son.
One of the elements I really loved about Chef was how it gets the usage of social media, not as a negative element that can hurt business, but as outlet that can help promote and save a business like a food truck. Percy uses Twitter as a way to promote his dad’s truck and hype it up, for the next city they are visiting. The movie is almost a love letter to Twitter (and Youtube and Vine as well) as it makes it seem like a powerful force in the marketing strategies of today’s up and coming business’s.
Another reason to love Chef is that the food looks fantastic and is likely to leave your mouth watering. Filming food is not as easy as you would think and Chef nails it, both with having the Carl character so passionate about it and the detailed way it shows the food being made, or the customers enjoy it. There is a fantastic scene in the movie Carl, Martin and Percy are trying a BBQ Pig, that just really shows you the power that great food can truly have in this life.
Chef is an interesting, smaller step for someone like Jon Favreau to take and I can only imagine this must have been a passion project for him. Considering that we are in the midst of a food truck revaluation (look no further then Hamilton were Food Trucks have become an industry now!), Chef is like the perfect movie, coming out at that perfect time. The way it shows us how these companies thrive on using social media to prosper, and the issues they are regularly having with permits and space, Chef is the first film to take notice of what is becoming a defining movement of this generation. By keeping a realistic feel to the movie (it avoids just about every clinch you would expect from a film like this), Favreau has created one of the better gems you are likely to find this summer. If you an find it, it is well worth seeing, to take a break from the summer overload.