Sometimes I watch a cooking show, and I marvel at the talent these people have to concoct something out of virtually nothing. I can barely boil water and these creative people can prepare an appetizer for twelve using only their intuition, thirty minutes, and a clove of garlic. Jon Favreau's Chef is a love letter to the process of making food.
Favreau plays Carl Casper, the head chef at a Los Angeles based restaurant who is about to be reviewed by a formative food critic and blogger, played by Oliver Platt. The kitchen staff (including John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale) are ready to do whatever Carl tells them to prepare for the evening menu, but the owner, Riva (Dustin Hoffman), tells him to only make the classic dishes that Carl is known for. Both men stand their ground, but Carl gives in and serves the safer menu. Needless to say, the review is far from stellar, and it sends Carl down a path he didn't expect.
Carl's downward spiral is pretty epic, and it's all captured on social media. He flips out on the critic at his restaurant, and a video is uploaded online. His son convinces him to join Twitter, and Carl unwittingly becomes a small celebrity. His personal life is pretty dismal, but is allows him to clear his head. Carl realizes that he's not doing what he loves, and he buys a food truck to get back in touch with his passion for cooking. Carl also allows himself to become closer with his son, Percy, as they travel (and cook) back to California from Miami.
Chef is more than one type of movie. Not only does it make the audience drool over the food, but it's a road movie in addition to being a father-son movie. I'd forgotten what a fun, cuddly presence Favreau is on screen, and he's surrounded himself with some great actors (cash in his Iron Man favors with Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr.?). Carl's relationship with Percy is rather adorable, as well. He's not a deadbeat dad, but he's just ignored Percy as much as he's ignored his real love of cooking. Everything opens up when they are on the open road, and it's really endearing.
I'm not even a foodie, and the platters in Chef made me drool. The food could have shown up the story, but they go hand in hand very well. Kind of like a nice main course with great sides. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to watch MasterChef and try not to burn the house down while I make some mac n cheese.