You may remember Favreau from “Swingers,” the hit indie comedy-drama he produced, wrote, and starred in back in 1996. Since then, he shifted to big budget films including “Elf,” the “Iron Man” series, and “The Avengers.” With “Chef”, he returns to fast-paced small budget filmmaking — the film was shot in a month — and a subject he’s passionate about, food.
In his new film, Favreau plays chef Carl Casper, once infamous for his soulful cuisine, turns out food to please the restaurant he’s worked in for the past ten years. He caves under pressure from his boss to serve the kind of banal restaurant food regular clientele expect: undistinguished French fare. Carl suffers from his mediocre routine, both professionally and personally, until food critic/blogger extraordinaire (Oliver Platt) reserves a seat for dinner. His boss (Dustin Hoffman) demands Carl prepare the regular menu, without flair. He plays it safe, dinner flops, and life tailspins from there. What follows is a trip with his ex-wife (Sofía Vergara) and son (Emjay Anthony), food truck, road trip, and reconciliation with his past. “Chef” is heartwarming and funny and takes us along on Carl’s noble albeit feel-good journey.
It’s the kind of film strangers bond over. After the credits rolled, I stood in line in the Ladies’ room. A woman struck up conversation with five of us waited near the door. “Did anyone see Chef?” The others replied no. “I did,” I said. “Didn’t you just love the film? It was so enjoyable to watch,” she said. “Yes and funny and well written. Plus Jon Favreau worked the line in Chef Roy Choi’s (Koji BBQ) food trucks and restaurants to get the life of a chef right.” She dried her hands and waved.
I left the theater thinking about beignets and barbecue.
p.s. To learn more about the making of “Chef,” Jon Favreau talks food, family, and filmmaking in this interview at CNN’s Eatocracy.