Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer 2014's Most Savory Film: Chef

Never have I ever left a theater craving a Cuban sandwich.  This savory reaction has been stirred by Jon Favreau's latest film, Chef. A post-film Cuban sandwich and pork sliders become a necessary evil, as a man gets back in touch with his liberating culinary creativity in such a sweet and satisfying fashion.    

Upon learning about the magical world of social media, LA chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) tweets a prestigious food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Pratt) that gave him a bad review.  He invites the critic to come back for a new menu, but is told he can’t cook it by the restaurant’s owner (Dustin Hoffman).  Casper walks out of the restaurant before Michel’s arrival, and returns only to lose his cool.  The fame that ensues is negative, even though there is no such thing as bad press. After losing his job, Casper goes on some soul searching in hopes to find happiness again, and cook for himself.  

On a trip to “nanny” his son Percy (EmJay Anthony) with his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara), he gets a food truck in hopes to start over and reconnect with those important to him.   The selling item: mouth-watering Cuban sandwiches.  Casper reconnects with his creative side, as he is inspired to pursue the “crazy food truck” idea that his ex-wife had been pushing for a while.  It turns out to be a turning point in his career—and his life—as he travels from Miami to LA with it, gaining popularity for the delicious sandwiches. 

This wonderful ensemble cast includes a hilarious five minute cameo from Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson as a restaurant manager, Dustin Hoffman as a restaurant owner, and Bobby Cannavale as a chef. To top it all off, John Leguizamo is the sous chef for Favreau, providing good vibes and comic relief throughout the film. 

To call this film “a feast for the eyes” would be hopelessly obvious, but it really is.  The scenes filmed where Favreau’s character is prepping and cooking his food—whether it was a simple grilled-cheese or an elaborate three-course meal—was colorful and fun.  If Food Network was directed by Favreau, I think it is fair to say we would all watch it more often than we already do.  (I’m kind of waiting for him to get his own show, but one thing at a time). 

Jon Favreau not only wrote, directed, and starred in the film, but he did his own cooking as well.  He trained with food-truck god Roy Choi, who helped him enroll in French culinary courses to learn the ins and outs of cooking.  "I brought him into the kitchen, and he just kind of fit in," Choi recalls. "I threw him a couple tests, like a case of chives, or a case of onions, or peel two cases of avocados. Just to see where his mind and his situation and his abilities were and how interested he was in these things. He just attacked them. He really became a part of it." Favreau looks natural as his character, as his cooking skills and culinary products are enough to make the audiences’ mouth water.

Chef is a feel-good delicacy.  Its wit keeps its audiences laughing and charm makes you smile.  The only letdown from seeing Chef was that there were no food trucks selling Cuban sandwiches in the Regal parking lot upon my departure from the theater.  The delicious nature of the film (and the food) is inspiring, and a must-see this summer.   

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