Chef (2014): Starting From Scratch Never Tasted So Good

Posted: June 17, 2014 in Comedy
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chef-movie-poster-2014Carl Casper was once considered the best up and coming chef from the Miami area, but recent challenges changed his passion for his work. While Carl continues to try to promote new meals at his restaurant, the owner continues to resist changing the menu. When an extremely critical review gets under Carl’s skin, he gets introduced to Twitter by his son and begins a word war over social media. The attention gains Carl more exposure, especially when he challenges Ramsey Michel to return to the restaurant for a new meal. Carl’s boss refuses to allow him to change the menu, resulting in Carl’s resignation and dive into a downward spiral. On the request of his ex-wife, Carl decides to go to Miami to spend more time with his son, but he finds out that the entire trip served as a chance for Carl to finally give into Inez’s suggestion to start a food truck and rediscover what he always loved about cooking.

Starring: Jon Favreau (Carl Casper), John Leguizamo (Martin), Bobby Cannavale (Tony), Emjay Anthony (Percy), Scarlett Johansson (Molly), Dustin Hoffman (Riva), Sofia Vergara (Inez), Oliver Platt (Ramsey Michel), Amy Sedaris (Jen), Robert Downey Jr. (Marvin), Russell Peters (Miami Cop)

This charming indie comedy was led by often supporting actor and director Jon Favreau serving as the lead chef. He was able to express a passion for cooking that seemed to pop off of the screen. He also presented a sense of focus that both worked to his favor but also stifled his other relationships. Leguizamo was also quite charming with his high energy and balance with Favreau’s more tempered energy on the road. Anthony deserves credit for his ability to draw emotion from his relationship with Favreau. While Johansson, Sedaris, and Downey Jr. all felt a little out of place, they each provided only a limited role in the greater story.

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John Favreau was a man of many talents in this film, with one of them also being representing the art of food and cooking through this predictable but very enjoyable storyline. The passion for food was central to the character of Carl Casper. Working with Riva had sucked a lot of the energy out of his cooking and he no longer felt able to experiment to impress the customers. When Carl finally got a chance to impress Ramsey after the bad review, Rivas stopped his ability to try something different and forced him to quit. The Twitter war continued and forced Carl into rough times. The food truck seemed like a lower form of food for Carl, but his rediscovery of good flavors in Miami served as just the motivation needed to give it a chance. Starting with a Cuban flavor, El Jefe food truck quickly gained recognition as it traveled from city to city across the country. The social media success and reviews gave him a chance to prove himself to Ramsey one more time.

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The relationships were a secondary but important plot line for this story. Carl was mostly focused on his work, but divided the rest of his time between his girlfriend and his son. Percy struggled with the limited relationship he had with his father but continued to push to any time that Carl would give him. Percy was the one who actually introduced Carl to social media and ended up using social media to help Carl discover success on the road. Gaining approval from his mother to drive cross-country with Carl, he was able to nestle himself back into Carl’s life. Unfortunately, returning home nearly dropped Carl back into his old routine but the video Percy shot throughout the trip caught Carl’s attention just enough to change his tune. This father-son connection was one that was truly charming and worth just as much attention as the food.

With the combination of succulent food, strong acting, and smart use of subtle and subdued comedy, this film is a gem amongst the blockbuster films of the summer.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

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