<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Jon Favreau. Starring Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Emjay Anthony, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Russell Peters
A film with no linear plot that’s like a refreshing road trip where the journey is far more important than the destination. Food isn’t porn here but the film is warm and sweet.
Director of the Iron Man films and a guy who likes to get in front of the camera too, Jon Favreau seems to have indulged himself in Chef. He’s gotten lots of food, which he spends time cooking and eating himself. He’s also got two lovely ladies – Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson to flip-flop between. His Iron Man star and buddy Robert Downey Jr makes a guest appearance that’s delightful. And he’s also ended up making a film that’s so slice of life, warm and unpredictable that you end up savouring it not for the food but for the sheer joyfulness of just going with it.
Favreau plays Carl Casper, the head chef at Mr Riva’s (Dustin Hoffman) upmarket restaurant. He’s been serving the same food for ten years and when a top food blogger called Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) decides to review, Carl’s plans of a special menu are dashed by the conservative Riva. This leads to an acerbic online review that goes viral, which has some bad and some good consequences. The scene where Carl confronts Ramsey is priceless and so true about many ‘bloggers’!
Carl’s ex wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) is a big shot businesswoman who takes care of their son Percy (Emjay Anthony) and very much wants Carl to spend more time with their son. But Carl is torn between his world as a chef and his new love interest – the hostess Molly (Scarlett Johansson) at the restaurant. Inez convinces Carl to come with her and Percy to California to ask her other ex husband, the wealthy Marvin (Robert Downey Jr) for a an old food truck so Carl can do what he loves and be his own boss out on the road.
Chef has several scenes of food preparation but they’re not arty or particularly mouth-watering. Vegetarians especially may not appreciate the scene where a pig is being carved up.
Anyway, so Carl, his son Percy and another cook from the restaurant, Martin (John Leguizamo) fix up the truck and go out on the road selling Cubanos sandwiches. Percy uses Twitter (which was previously used in a funny battle of words between Carl and food critic Ramsey) to market their food truck and it’s a success. The bonding between father and son, the things Percy learns about himself and life along the way and the realisation Carl has form the main course of Chef.
The ending may be a tad abrupt and unexplained (why has Carl split up with Inez etc never really gets explained) but then this is not a film that follows formula. It’s warm and funny, about people, not superheroes (well not the costumed kind) who are just trying to live a life of passion and happiness.