Written, directed, and starring Jon Favreau, Chef, is a return to the lower budget indie films that have heart, warmth, and predictability in a way that audiences enjoy. There is no new ground broken here, however what you get is a beautifully shot movie with all the moving parts working in harmony to produce one of the most enjoyable films of the year. The film tells the story of Carl Casper (Jon Favreau), a miami born chef who was the talk of the town in the earlier part of his career. However after moving to L.A. to work in a restaurant owned by Riva (Dustin Hoffman), Carl loses his edge by cooking the same food over and over. While still a highly competent chef, he is in a slump and dreams of cooking food that inspires him. Seemingly depressed by his situation, Carl is often buoyed by his sous chef and other assistant, Tony (Bobby Cannavale) and Martin (John Leguizamo) respectively. The three forge an amazing collaborative in and out of the kitchen.
Carl, for all his skill in the kitchen, is a mediocre father at best. He often tries hard to be there for his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony). Unfortunately, Carl just can’t seem to find proper time with his son and balance his work. Percy constantly reaches out to him, but Carl is relatively blind to this. Inez (Sofia Vergara), Carl’s ex-wife, and mother to Percy works to make sure that Percy and Carl have a good relationship but once again Carl is the blockade. He loves his son, but the demands of being a head chef make having a great relationship with him next to impossible.
One evening Carl gets wind of a top notch food critic will be reviewing his restaurant. Carl plans out a new menu that he has been practicing. Unique food from his Miami roots that is sure to shock and please his critical audience of one. However, Riva refuses to allow this new menu to be served and Carl is eviscerated in the review the next day. Unaware of how social media works Carl fires back at the critic causing a showdown that doesn’t work in Carl’s favor. He quits his job and goes to Miami with his ex-wife and son on vacation. Being back in his hometown reinvigorates him, and his passion for food. Along with the help of Martin and Percy the three renovate a food truck and began their comeback tour. Many laughs and heartfelt moments are had during the drive back to L.A. from Miami. In the end, father and son bond like never before. Carl is a new man, or rather the man he use to be. Martin and Carl teach Percy how to be a line cook, and simultaneously how to be a man. The film is a perfect example of a movie that is just a pleasure to watch.
From a directorial perspective, Favreau was really on his game here. Coming off of the Iron Man franchise, it was nice to see him go back to his roots with a smaller cast and scope. He did a wonderful job in filming the food preparation and plating scenes especially. I walked away quite hungry for the food and more of this quality filmmaking. Favreau was able to get quite a few of his Iron Man buddies to make appearances in the film, including Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. While their parts were nothing more than cameos they helped to give the movie some serious star power. Sofia Vergara was excellent as the supportive and caring ex-wife, who truly cared for Carl no matter the outcome of their previous marriage. Emjay Anthony made Percy feel very real. Doing a great job of the inquisitive child, but simultaneously showing vulnerability in moments of hurt due to his poor relationship with his father. Lastly, Jon Favreau was effortlessly convincing as a modern chef. From the cooking related tattoos, intrinsic knowledge, and slightly know-it-all attitude he nails it perfectly. Clearly inspired by the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey, Carl Casper is such a relatable character that you really wish for a sequel to a movie that in no way requires one. In the season of blockbusters and mega CGI action flicks, Chef is a small but truly standout film. Simply a textbook example of intelligent and highly enjoyable filmmaking.
[easyreview title= "Review of Chef" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="5.0" overall= false]