I seldom write about movies, but every once and awhile, (“Big Night”, “Hyde Park on the Husdon“) there’s one with significant food content or a subject that resonates with me on some level, so I utter a few words about it. In the case of the movie “Chef”, I suspect this missive might be lengthy, as there were a number of elements in the story line that meant something to me.
The film, described in the trades as a “small indie”, was written, directed and stars Jon Favreau, who cut his acting chops in similar small indies, before moving behind the camera and directing blockbusters like “Iron Man” 1 and II, and some other big hits, as well as some not so hits (“Cowboys and Aliens”).
Chef tells the story of Los Angeles chef Carl Casper, stymied in his career while heading a semi-posh L.A. eatery owned by autocrat “Riva: played by Dustin Hoffman. Previously lauded by critics for his kitchen creativity, Caspar is now locked in an artistic battle with Hoffman’s character, who insists on keeping the menu as it always has been, and not allowing Caspar the artistic kitchen freedom he was offered when hired.
After Rivas’s menu and Caspar’s prep get a scathing review from food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), Caspar discovers he has the ability to rebut the review via social media, a tool previously unknown to Caspar. He gets pointers from his eleven year old son, from whom he is somewhat estranged.
The result is Caspar “got quit” from the restaurant, and his ex wife suggests he get back to his passion, cooking food he loves, and go the food truck route. Pooh poohing the suggestion at first, Caspar eventually warms up to the idea, flies to Miami to meet with his ex’s first ex (Robert Downey, Jr) who finances the food truck operation, the cuisine of which focuses on Caspar’s Miami roots, as well as those of his Cuban ex-wife.
I won’t go any further into the plot other than to say Caspar gets the truck rolling, and heads across the country with his former sous chef (John Leguizamo), and Caspar’s son, and along the journey makes the all important discovery of “what’s important in life.”
It’s a funny, sometimes poignant movie, worth seeing, especially for restaurant workers and self-proclaimed foodies.
Caspar’s food truck offering is a Cuban Sandwich, on my top three list of favorite things between bread. Here’s a typical recipe.
Featured in the flick is the Versaille restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana, but they could have used one of the locations of a small chain of the same name in Los Angeles, Versailles, who have a garlic chicken and roasted pork in garlic sauce that are so good they will make you cry. I’ve had many great meals at the L.A. Versailles, and two of the worst social occasions of my life.
Among my favorite bits in the movie are a stop in New Orleans, one of the places I hang my hat these days, and a pop into Austin’s red hot Aaron Franklin’s BBQ shop, which is open Tues – Sun for lunch only, from 11 AM until they are sold out. Spectacular ‘cue.
Side note: A few weeks ago, on a different site, I said I was completely over movie and tv shows that showed Twitter messages or IMs on the screen as plot devices or dialogue. That gimmick is featured prominently in “Chef”, but it’s necessary to the plot line, and they made it ‘cute’ by including an animation of the Twitter bird.
Here’s the movie trailer.
Chef Movie Review
Chef Movie Review