2014-07-03 / Around Town

‘Chef’ Serves It Up Right

By Patricia Lacouture


Jon Favreau (right), as celebrity chef Carl Casper, hams it up with an awe-struck food truck fan in “Chef.” Jon Favreau (right), as celebrity chef Carl Casper, hams it up with an awe-struck food truck fan in “Chef.” Summer is finally here, and what’s truly amazing about this year is that you don’t have to settle for the usual mainstream summer movie fare. “Chef” offers a delicious alternative to predictable blockbuster noise machines and straight-out-stupid comedies. In fact, “Chef” would be a tantalizing treat at any season with its clever comedy—satire on the dangers of the information age for those not fully aware of the hazards lurking in the land of Twitter—and mouthwatering glimpses into a domain made constantly more popular by foodies: the professional kitchen.

Directed by and starring Jon Favreau (“Swingers,” “Rudy,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street”), “Chef” spends much of its first third in the kitchen of a trendy Los Angeles restaurant where Miami native Chef Carl Casper (Favreau) longs to unleash his inner Emeril. Casper has been under fire by food critic and blogger Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), and he has invited the persnickety fellow to the restaurant to sample a new menu.


Patricia Lacouture teaches film studies at Salve Regina University. She completed her graduate studies in film at Boston University. Patricia Lacouture teaches film studies at Salve Regina University. She completed her graduate studies in film at Boston University. Creativity proves short-lived, however, as Carl’s plans get trashed by demanding owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman), who pitches a fit in the kitchen as he reminds his chef and crew who pays for the napkins, silverware, their salaries, etc. Hoffman, whose career has been built on no shortage of artistic turns, ends his tirade with: “Be an artist on your own time.”

Carl has many reasons to follow orders, mainly an adorable son named Percy (Emjay Anthony), child support for said son, and the chance to cook creatively for the boy, who appreciates all of Dad’s experiments. I was salivating over a grilled cheese sandwich, the likes of which would not appear as either diner fare or in most home kitchens. He also creates a breakfast so beautiful it hardly seems possible that eggs, potatoes, and toast could ever be made into something that yummy looking.

Percy provides a foil for the adult guy humor bantered about by Carl and his staff, especially line cook Martin (John Leguizamo) who can be bawdy yet show sensitivity to a child at the same time.

Back at the restaurant, Ramsey practically gags on what looks like delicious food.

“Chef” teases palates later, however, when the now-unemployed Carl accepts an invitation to join his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) on a trip to Miami. The chance to spend time with Percy is the real lure, but Carl starts to think about more southerly cuisines when they all attend a Cuban restaurant. Offered a food truck by his ex-wife’s ex, Marvin (Robert Downey Jr.), Carl gives in to the lure of his roots and the idea of freedom from a controlling boss.

You’ve all seen the trailers, so you know it’s a pretty jazzy food truck, but life doesn’t start off too promisingly for the food stand on wheels; it’s filthy, bug-infested, and lacks up-to-par equipment. Trying to ready the vehicle makes for great father/son bonding, and when they are joined by Martin everything gels. He has the right lines and facial expressions to defray the tensions associated with a dubious startup – particularly one that depends on something that looks like it belongs in a town dump.

The entire experiment started after Carl sent Ramsey an insulting reply to a tweet. Carl is shocked when his son informs him that, overnight, he has gained a following of 1,653 on one social network and over a million on another – and the publicity is NOT favorable. Motto: Never press “reply” to something you receive if you don’t know what type of feed the sender is using. Carl learns about technology and salvages his relationship with his son – all while building up a business that is as satisfying as juicy ribs right off the smoker.

Movies often come with the warning: Bring a handkerchief. This one should say: Bring a bib, or, at least, don’t come hungry.

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