Chef (R) ★★★½

Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau star in "Chef." Photo Credit: Open Road Films.
Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau star in “Chef.” Photo Credit: Open Road Films.

Properly Prepared, Sensationally Satisfying

Writer, director, producer and actor, Jon Favreau is back filmmaking again, but far from the Iron Man franchise. In Favreau’s latest indie-style flick, Chef, he tackles roles both in front of and behind the camera. This culinary comedy is like a fresh recipe when it comes to the other films out there this year.

Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau, Iron Man 3, 2013) is an innovative, celebrity chef in Los Angeles who is creatively constrained by the owner of his high-end restaurant, Riva (Dustin Hoffman, Kung Fu Panda 2, 2011), who won’t let him stray from the traditional menu that has historically won over diners. When a major food critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt (Kill the Messenger, 2014) comes into the restaurant to critique Carl’s creations, he’s clearly disappointed with the old standbys, especially the chocolate molten lava cake. It doesn’t take long before Ramsey’s distaste for Carl’s latest work is broadcast all over social channels, and a social media battle ensues. After another failed attempt to convince Riva to let him try something new, Carl realizes that he will never be able to cook what he wants and what he thinks others would enjoy. Despite his ten years of dedication to the restaurant, Carl parts ways to save his integrity.

Carl, a broke, divorced father has hit rock bottom and unsure of his next move. After some soul searching and hanging out with his estranged son, Percy (Emjay Anthony, The Mentalist, 2013), Carl reaches a turning point and decides to team up with his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara, The Three Stooges, 2012) and her first husband, Marvin (Robert Downey Jr., The Judge, 2014). Carl and his team comprised of his old sous chef (John Leguizamo, Kick Ass 2, 2013) and Percy, transform an old food truck in Miami and create a wide assortment of delicious Cuban sandwiches. While finally cooking the creations he dreams up, Carl begins to regain his happiness, both professionally and personally, especially with his son.

Chef  is light-hearted and engaging with enticing food shots that will make you salivate. Carl’s food truck journey captures iconic shots of Miami, Austin and New Orleans. Throughout these travels, the soundtrack parallels the local fare and flare – from salsa, and Caribbean to country and soul. This film does not have a meaty script, but enough shared plates to please all appetites. The main message is about finding your passion, your zest for life and most importantly following it.

The script allows for a genuine relationship between a dad and his son who have years of catching up to do. Their relationship is also accurate in the sense that Percy is a young, hands-on social media wiz who teaches his old man a thing or two about Twitter. While Carl learns the benefits and sometimes the repercussions of speaking your mind on social channels, the impressionable, 10-year old Percy is learning the ins and outs of cooking and running a business.

While Chef serves up a beefy cast with Hoffman, Vergara, Downey Jr., Platt and even Scarlett Johansson (Lucy, 2014), the former marriage of Carl and Inez was not believable. Even though we are used to seeing Vergara married to Ed O’Neill, who is very much her senior on Modern Family, it’s difficult to imagine a Hollywood bombshell with a laid back chef like Carl.

Bottom-Line? See Chef on a full stomach. You will want to eat your hand after seeing some of these dishes prepared. While it’s not revolutionary, this is a feel-good comedy that certainly satisfies.

Cast: Jon Favreau (Carl Casper), Sofia Vergara (Inez), Bobby Cannavale (Tony), Dustin Hoffman (Riva), Scarlett Johansson (Molly), John Leguizamo (Martin), Oliver Platt (Ramsey Michel), Robert Downey Jr. (Marvin), Emjay Anthony (Percy)

Credits: Directed  and written by Jon Favreau

Studio: Open Road Films

Run Time: 114 minutes

Jessica Aymond © November 11, 2014