After years of directing mega summer blockbusters (“Iron Man,” ”Iron Man 2,” ”Cowboys & Aliens“), Jon Favreau has returned to his Indy roots, as the writer, director and star of the delicious “Chef“, his best “small” film since 1996’s “Swingers.”
Favreau plays Carl Casper, a hotshot Los Angeles chef who suddenly quits his job at a prominent Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman). Devastated by a scathing review of his food and a lack of passion for his work, Casper finds himself in Miami, where he is inspired to team up with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), his sous chef friend (John Leguizamo) and his son, Percy (the delightful Emjay Anthony), to launch a food truck. Hitting the road, Chef Carl goes back to his roots to reignite his passion for the kitchen — and zest for life and love.
“Chef” is a new kind of road trip movie, centering on the budding relationship between Casper and the son he has neglected, as they make their way across the country serving spicy Cuban sandwiches to a background of hot Latin music. Casper teaches the kid to cook, and the kid teaches Casper about social media, using Vine, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to promote the business. The film is peppered with little animated blue birds flying next to Twitter texts. The animation may look dated by the time the DVD comes out, but it’s cute as heck right now. (It may be interesting to note that Favreau has 1.7 million followers on Twitter.)
Favreau took his role seriously, receiving six weeks of formal training from L.A.’s food truck wunderkind, Roy Choi, owner of Mr. Choi’s Kogi BBQ trucks, and the prep shows. Close ups show off Favreau’s new knife skills, and every morsel, I mean frame of the film looks delicious.
The Bottom Line: “Chef” is porn for foodies — savory and fun — a recipe for success. Although it will be fine to watch on DVD, it also makes for a delicious evening at the movies. One warning, my fellow critics all mentioned how hungry they were at the end of the film. You might want to hit the snack bar before the lights go down.
Rated R for language and some suggestive references. 115 min