My camera roll is filled with pictures of food so I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy Jon Favreau’s Chef, which is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.
Food is always front and center in Chef, which contains the best depiction of a grilled cheese sandwich on camera, among other tasty delights. Yet it is also an excellent story about a father reconnecting with his son.
It also marks a return to simple storytelling for Favreau, who wrote Swingers, but has spent the last several years in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2.
Now Chef, written and directed by Favreau, follows celebrated chef Carl Casper (Favreau) after a very public feud with a food blogger ends his career. With the help of his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and loyal line cook (John Leguizamo), Casper starts fresh with a food truck and, during a road trip from Florida to California, revitalizes not only his career but also his relationship with his son (Emjay Anthony).
The parallels between Favreau the filmmaker and the character he plays in Chef are too obvious to ignore. It’s interesting to see just how much the two professions have in common.
The verbal lashing Casper gives the food blogger seems like something Favreau has been wanting to say to film bloggers for years. And a scene between Casper and a police officer who wants to take his picture feels like something Favreau has experienced—or at least knows others who have experienced something similar. It’s too crazy to have been made up.
While Chef was made on a much smaller scale than the Iron Man franchise, it didn’t stop Favreau from enlisting the help of some very big names. Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, and Bobby Cannavale seemed to thoroughly enjoy being in this movie, no matter how small their parts.
Downey, Jr. only has one scene, but he makes the most of it and the comedic chemistry between the two makes it memorable. It also demonstrates Favreau’s talents as a writer and director. He takes a scene that is essentially two guys meeting, and turns it into something interesting and really funny.
With all the star talent in the movie it’s worth mentioning that Anthony, the young actor who plays Favreau’s son, is really terrific. It’s not easy playing a 10 year old, teetering between being a kid and being a teenager, but Anthony nails the balance and is neither too cute or too cool.
Editor Robert Leighton keeps the pacing tight and the story on track. There isn’t a moment that feels wasted in this movie. Production designer Denise Pizzini captures the different cities with an understanding of their connection to food culture. Co-producer Roy Choi, who practically invented the food truck craze, is probably the reason why the food scenes are done so well. In fact, this movie is a better foodie film than The Hundred Foot Journey.