Chef (2014)

Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Emjay Anthony
A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.
Chef's charming cast and sharp, funny script add enough spice to make this feel-good comedy a flavorful -- if familiar -- treat.
  • Open Road Films Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 30 May 2014 Released:
  • 30 Sep 2014 DVD Release:
  • $29.0M Box office:

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Food-porn at its best5/10
Jon Favreau's pet project, after a decade of big budget, heavy-on-special-effects, blockbusters and fantasy fair, is as charming as they come. The film follows a master chef (played by Favreau) whose career is derailed and, as a last resort, opens a food truck and drives across country with his young son and his sous-chef, played by John Leguizamo, selling Cubano sandwiches. Along the way, we're treated to food-porn at its best and introduced to a cast of characters that would make Woody Allen blush: Oliver Platt, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansen, and a slew of other familiar faces.

This is still a far cry from 'Swingers' - the film that began the plague that is Vince Vaughn and managed to charm every straight man in America - but the man knows how to make a light comedy with clever dialogue that doesn't feel frivolous. This is far from indie/art-house but Favreau was candid in saying that he had no desire to make a cinematic contribution, he simply fell in love with the premise, ran with it, and the result brought the house down.
Happy, Uplifting, Feel Good Movie9/10
I did not expect such a talented cast of actors mostly in small parts. Jon Favearu has a lot of friends. The actor who played his son is a find. He was great. Low key, sweet and very natural and believable. The story is good. It is about the chef and then the food truck, but it really is about him and his son. I liked that he was friends with his ex wife, Sofia Vergara, who did a great job. That struck home for me, because my ex and I get along well and it brought a lump to my throat to see how happy that made their son. It is special when divorced parents can get along and do things with their kids. The story moved quickly and I loved how the son used twitter and they incorporated social media into the story. Very realistic. I highly recommend this movie. Really a joy to watch.
You won't want to miss this one8/10
I really enjoyed this funny and heart-warming movie about a chef and his relationship with food and his son. The film is worth about 8.5 in my books. The current IMDb score is roughly accurate, despite the inexplicably negative reviews and voting of a tiny minority.

Leguizamo and Vergara light up every scene they're in. Quite a few A-list Hollywood stars are in this movie, but it's not a Hollywood movie at all. The performances by all the main and supporting actors were excellent. When I try to single one or two out, I just start thinking about how good the others were too.

You feel like the movie had no script at all, that's how natural the writing was. Remarkably cliche-free.

I was subtly but deftly moved at the end. This is an optimistic guy movie but women will enjoy it as well.

Kudos to Favreau (of course) and to everyone else involved in this film. I have a new respect for Favreau and will watch out for his films in the future.
A movie you want to like, but it stabs you in the back with a chef knife3/10
I wanted to enjoy this film and have it live up to its hype, but I couldn't. I thought I might be watching a homage to food like "Sideways" was to wine, but the last minute was written like like Favreau was running out of ink or paper for his script. It starts out fine, but after the Chef is fired/quits/takes the night off after the bad review, he goes home and preps all this great food. I thought he intended to invite the critic to eat this food, but instead he goes back to the restaurant without the food and screeches at him at the top of his lungs. Wha? Then, I get the buddy/father/son road trip across country in the food truck. I'm thinking "Sideways"...then they get to LA and the last minutes of the movie derail this movie completely: the critic loves the food truck food a little too much & offers Chef a job at his restaurant. Wait a second: the owner of the first restaurant promised Chef total food control too & later changed their deal so Chef would cook only what the owner wanted. So, I thought the food truck was about having sole control again. Nope: chef decides to accept the deal and enter into another deal working for somebody else, just like how he started at the first restaurant. That makes no sense. The food truck vanishes in an instant to be replaced by the restaurant and we see the chef married to his ex-wife for only the sole reason that she inadvertently blurted out she loved her ex a couple minutes earlier in the film. Wait, what? This could have been a 10 movie, if only Favreau had focused on what the premise of the movie was supposed to be: a chef in love with cooking standing on his own two feet and succeeding. Instead, I'm left with the impression that this movie was more a statement about the good/evil of using social media (mainly Twitter). Maybe the movie should have been called "Cyberbully"?
A familiar recipe, expertly prepared and served with extra zest!8/10
At an early point in Chef, the title character cooks a grilled cheese sandwich for his 10-year-old son, Percy. It's a familiar recipe —bread, butter, and cheese — but the way that the camera lingers on the melting cheese, and the care taken in how the food was served, made me want to reach into the screen and take a bite. If Chef were a meal, it would be comfort food. When comfort food is done right, boy oh boy does it hit the spot.

Favreau directs and stars as Carl Casper, a celebrated chef at a swanky Los Angeles restaurant, whose creativity and integrity is compromised by the restaurant's controlling owner. After a video of him losing his temper at a food critic goes viral he becomes not only unemployed, but unemployable. With his reputation in shreds, he decides to get back in touch with his roots by opening a food truck and taking it – along with line cook and son - on the road, rediscovering his passion along the way.

The pairing of sumptuous shots of food preparation with Latin beats is hard to resist for most audiences, and the food shots in Chef are so luscious and evocative that you can almost smell what's cooking. The music, sensual and spicy, is perfectly matched to the food. There's a beauty and a rhythm in the food preparation scenes and the amount of them included in the film is just right, so as not to feel over indulgent.

There is also a lot of enjoyment to be had from watching the performances of the supporting cast, and perhaps this is because each of them play to their strengths: Robert Downey Jr steals the scene as Casper's ex-wife's other ex-husband who is rich, generous, and always looks like he's on the verge of doing something really crazy; Sofia Vegara plays Casper's sweet, sexy, well- meaning ex-wife, who he is still great friends with; John Leguizamo, always an interesting actor to watch, has fantastic chemistry with Favreau and the young actor who plays his son, and some of the more meandering scenes in the film are made interesting by his infectious energy; and Dustin Hoffman adds an element of compassion to a role that could have easily been reduced to a caricature. The stars featuring in the film stay firmly within their safe zone, and I couldn't help but remember what Hoffman tells Favreau early in the movie: play your hits, because no one wants to go to a Rolling Stones concert and not hear 'Satisfaction'. While this can have the potential to be boring, it bodes well for the film: we know we're in safe hands, and we're going to come out of this feeling satisfied. Special mention must be made of Emjay Anthony, who plays Favreau's son Percy with the perfect blend of maturity and innocence, and is really the emotional centre of the film.

While the film is certainly a feast for the senses, at its core it's about restoration: restoring the father-son relationship, and restoring passion. It's hard to ignore the parallels to Favreau's own career: after breaking out in the 1996 indie hit Swingers, Favreau has in recent years become a director of the mega-blockbusters: the first two Iron Man movies, and the less well-received Cowboys & Aliens. Here, he cleanses his palate as a director and returns to more down-to-earth, feel-good fare (there's even a dead-on remark about Casper's/Favreau's "dramatic weight gain". Ouch). A familiar recipe made with great ingredients, Chef will leave you feeling satisfied.