Even if sitting atop your ultra-hip food truck, swigging a Modelo with a fat bankroll in your pocket while Gary Clarke Jr. serenades an Austin bandido bar isn’t your thing, there’s a lot to like about John Favreau’s “Chef.”
An unapologetic celebration of food and family, the movie centers on a nebbish but passionate L.A. chef whose kitchen skills have earned him a big reputation in the local culinary scene, not to mention the attentions of two of moviedom’s most photogenic women – Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson – playing his ex-wife and new kitchen pal, respectively.
In something of a rut, forced to experiment with new dishes and sauces at his home kitchen after he’s stifled by his restaurant owner (Dustin Hoffman), Favreau self-destructs in a fiery confrontation with his boss and an even more stellar Internet firefight with an online food critic who used to like him but thinks he’s gotten lazy.
Wallowing in self-doubt, jobless, and now an Internet meme, Favreau is looking for a fresh start when his ex suggests a trip to Miami with their son. While there, forced to humble himself before his wife’s ex-husband (Robert Downey, Jr.), the chef accepts the offer of a nuked food truck, setting out to refurbish the wreck and salvage his reputation.
With his son and faithful sous chef sidekick Martin (John Leguizamo) along for the ride, Chef takes off across country in his glistening new Cubano wagon, dispensing cutting edge cuisine and fatherly advice along the way. Look for cameo appearances by Clark, a Texas-style slo-cook brisket and some of the country’s best least known regional food professionals as Chef practices his craft under the appraising gaze of his son.
It’s a bonding movie, of course, with lingering shots of golden brown Cuban sandwiches, beef cheeks, game hen and generous amounts of bacon thrown in to entertain foodies and carnivores. The story motors along to a favorable if somewhat predictable conclusion but we recommend it as an entertaining use of time. In fact, it might be a movie kids could enjoy with parents if not for a couple patches of rough language and adult references.
Why We Liked It: It doesn’t take long to figure out where Chef is headed, or to get over that we’ve lost Johansson early on, but once you know where the movie is going it’s okay to sit back and enjoy the ride. Favreau is fine, and Leguizamo adds the requisite Latin spice – and the food and music talks for itself.
Available for streaming on Amazon Prime.