Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chef - a Delicious Road Trip

2014 has blessed us with three foodie movies to savor.  First up was Tasting Menu, somewhat inspired by the closing of Spain’s El Bulli.  Though released in April, the DVD is out in October, and I will have to review it then.  Next came Jon Favreau’s Chef which I will review here in a moment.  In the last week we were treated to the dessert, The Hundred Foot Journey.  I hope to devour that in the next week, so stay tuned.

Chef… I went to this expecting food to only play a secondary role and ultimately to find it a little unsatisfying but a decent escape.  I was wrong.  Food played a central role, it was loaded with morsels of wisdom and subtle foodie observations and proved to be an entertaining and enjoyable film.   

Favreau plays a LA celebrity chef caught between a rock and a hard place.  His manager/restaurant owner wants him to stick to what he does well, take no risks and simply turn out the same menu night after night, year after year.  But the city’s most influential critic is about to visit and the Chef would like to display his chops.  The manager threatens him with his job.  He gets a lousy review.

In this first third of the film we see that the Chef, Carl, is obsessed and consumed by his work but that he truly loves the creative process of cooking; the restaurant is stifling to him.  However, his obsessiveness seems to have cost him one marriage and regularly drives a wedge between him and his son.  

After a verbal explosion goes viral Carl loses his job.  Now we know it’s time for the redemption and it will likely involve Carl getting back in touch with both his love of creativity, cooking and his son.  Totally predictable, right?  It is.  But it’s fun.  

Enter a food truck, the support of his ex-wife, Miami and the beautiful simplicity and love of Cubano sandwiches.  Along the way we will get touching conversations, father-son instruction in the value of hard work and love of food, the subtlty of sandwich creation, a road trip and ultimately rekindled romance and food fame with a predictable twist at the end. 

The co-stars really steal the show.  Sofia Vergara plays the ex-wife and her easy smile warms the screen.  Jon Leguizamo’s humor and flair brings lightness to Favreau’s self-absorbed chef, and Bobby Cannavale nails it as a loyal sous chef.  Dustan Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Scarlett Johansson, and Robert Downey, Jr.  have smaller parts played spot on.

This won’t win any awards.  But you will enjoy it.  I highly recommend it…but you need to find a place in town for a good Cubano and make a reservation for 15 minutes after the movie is out…you’re gonna want one! 

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